Two Syrians walk along a fence near the Turkish-Syrian border in Gaziantep province, Turkey, November 30, 2016. Syrians who arrived in Turkey since late 2017 have been unable to register for temporary protection and receive basic services.

© 2016 Umit Bektas/Reuters
(Istanbul) – Turkish authorities in Istanbul and nine provinces on or near the Syrian border have stopped registering all but a handful of recently arrived Syrian asylum seekers. The suspension is leading to unlawful deportations, coerced returns to Syria, and the denial of health care and education.

The European Commission has recently praised Turkey’s asylum system and plans to release the second batch of €3 billion under its March 2016 migration deal which includes support for refugees in Turkey. European Union institutions and governments have stayed publicly silent on the suspension and other refugee abuses committed by Turkey, suggesting their primary concern is to halt the movement of asylum seekers and migrants from Turkey to the EU.

“While the EU supports Turkey to deter asylum seekers from reaching Europe, it’s turning a blind eye to Turkey’s latest steps to block and discourage people fleeing Syria,” said Gerry Simpson, associate refugee program director at Human Rights Watch. “But forcing Syrians who manage to get past Turkey’s border guards to live in legal limbo only risks driving them underground and onward to the EU.”

Syrian refugees queue for food aid in Gaziantep, Turkey on May 20, 2016. Turkey’s suspension of Syrian refugee registration blocks them from receiving such aid.

© 2016 Kyodo/ AP Images
The suspension of registration is Turkey’s latest effort to deny new asylum seekers protection. Over the past three years, Turkey has sealed off its border with Syria, while Turkish border guards continue to carry out mass summary pushbacks and to kill and injure Syrians as they try to cross.

Between early 2011 and the end of May 2018, Turkey had registered almost 3.6 million Syrians, making it the world’s largest refugee hosting country. That generosity does not absolve it, or its international partners, of the duty to help newly arrived asylum seekers, Human Rights Watch said. 

In mid-May 2018, Human Rights Watch interviewed 32 Syrians in Turkey’s Hatay province about their attempts to register for a temporary protection permit in Hatay, Gaziantep, and Istanbul provinces. A permit protects Syrians from arrest and the risk of deportation. It also entitles them to get health care and education, to work, and to seek social assistance, including the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net for the most vulnerable Syrians.

Syrians said Turkish police deported them in groups of up to 20 people for not having a permit and that hospitals and schools refused to take them in without permits. Some said they returned to Syria so they, or their relatives, could get urgent medical care. Others said they decided to return to Syria because only some family members had been able to register. All said, they lived in constant fear of arrest and deportation and severely restricted their movement to avoid the police.

Turkey is bound by the international customary law rule of nonrefoulement, which prohibits the return of anyone in any manner whatsoever to a place where they would face a real risk of persecution, torture or other ill-treatment, or a threat to life. This includes asylum seekers, who are entitled to have their claims fairly adjudicated and not be summarily returned to places where they fear harm. Turkey may not coerce people into returning to places where they face harm by denying them legal status or access to essential services.

On October 30, 2017, the Hatay governor’s office said that to discourage smugglers from helping Syrians enter Turkey through Hatay, the province would no longer register newly arriving Syrians for temporary protection permits. In early February 2018, Turkey’s Interior Ministry said Istanbul province would also no longer register Syrians.

Eight other provinces on or near the Syrian border have also suspended registration for newly arriving Syrians since late 2017 or early 2018, according to three agencies working closely with Syrian refugees, as well as a European Commission official and a Turkish public official who previously worked on migration issues. The provinces are Adana, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş, Kilis, Mardin, Mersin, Osmaniye, and Şanlıurfa.

Share

© 2018 DigitalGlobe and © 2018 Human Rights Watch

Since late August 2015, only registered Syrians who obtain a special travel permit have been allowed to travel within Turkey. In practice, the vast majority of Syrian asylum seekers enter Turkey irregularly through the few remaining gaps in Turkey’s border wall in Hatay province. Blocked from registering there, they are unable to lawfully leave Hatay province and travel to other provinces where registration has not been closed. This forces them to live illegally in Hatay province, or to use smugglers to reach other parts of Turkey, risking arrest and deportation.

According to three confidential sources, Turkey has rejected proposals for a new system that would allow Syrians arriving in Hatay, and to a far lesser extent in other border provinces, to register in other parts of Turkey where fewer refugees live.

Refugee agencies told Human Rights Watch that Turkey’s strict controls on international and local refugee agencies prevent them from finding and helping unregistered Syrians. This lack of aid agency monitoring means that there are no statistics or estimates on the numbers of Syrians denied registration, deported, or refused urgently needed services.

In response to a June 13 letter presenting the Human Rights Watch findings, the migration authorities in Ankara denied that any of the country’s 81 provinces, including Hatay and Istanbul, had suspended registration of Syrians. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told Human Rights Watch that as of mid-May, the authorities had reassured them that registration of Syrians was ongoing, including in Hatay and Istanbul. Other aid agencies that support refugees say that the authorities in the 10 provinces have only continued to process Syrians pre-registered at the time of the suspension, and to register urgent medical cases referred from Syria and babies born to registered Syrians in Turkey. Two refugee aid agencies also said that in some cases they have managed to convince the authorities in Hatay and Osmaniye provinces to register particularly vulnerable unregistered Syrians.

In early 2018, the authorities in Hatay opened a new registration center in Antakya. Representatives of three aid agencies and two Turkish security personnel working in Antakya said the center is exclusively for unregistered Syrians to request help to return to Syria, while registered Syrians can request help to return at other migration authority-run centers.

Turkey does not allow any independent monitoring of whether unregistered Syrians signing up for return are in fact returning voluntarily or whether they are effectively being coerced. In contrast, Turkey does allow independent monitoring of some registered Syrians’ decision to return to Syria.

Turkey should protect the basic rights of all newly arriving Syrians, regardless of registration status, and register those denied registration since late 2017. The European Commission and EU member states with embassies in Turkey should support Turkey to register and protect Syrians and press Turkey to allow all agencies working for refugees to freely assist and help protect all Syrians, including all unregistered Syrians.

“Unregistered Syrians in Turkey may be conveniently out of sight, but they shouldn’t be out of mind,” Simpson said. “EU states and the commission should speak up and support all Syrians in Turkey, not just those who got in before Turkey started driving them underground.”

For more details about Turkey’s suspension of Syrian asylum seeker registration, please see below.

Asylum Seeker Registration

The first Syrian refugees fled to Turkey in early 2011 and in the subsequent three-and-a-half years, Turkey adopted an ad hoc approach to their registration, without conferring a clear legal status with related rights. Although Turkey ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the country maintains a geographical limitation that excludes anyone not originally from a European country from full refugee recognition. That means it does not fully grant asylum to people fleeing violence or persecution in Syria and any other non-European country.

In 2013, Turkey adopted its own legal framework on the protection of asylum seekers and refugees. In October 2014, Turkey also adopted a regulation under which it grants Syrians temporary protection. As of June 28, 2018, Turkey said it had registered 3,562,523 people under the regulation. Registered Syrians are entitled to assistance. Even though the regulation says Syrians who fail to register will not be deported to Syria and will only face an “administrative fine,” Human Rights Watch found that unregistered Syrians have been deported for not having temporary protection permits.

The Hatay governor’s office and the interior minister said registration has been suspended for newly arriving Syrians in Hatay and Istanbul. Refugee aid agencies and Syrians in Hatay’s main city, Antakya, told Human Rights Watch that police carried out mass arrests of Syrians in November and early December, just after registration was suspended.

Five sources told Human Rights Watch that since late 2017 and early 2018, migration authorities in eight other border provinces followed suit and turned away all newly arriving Syrians seeking registration.

As of June 28, seven of the provinces that suspended registration were in the top 10 provinces hosting Syrians: Adana, Gaziantep, Hatay, Istanbul, Kilis, Mersin, and Şanlıurfa. Together they were sheltering 2,422,804 registered Syrians, or 68 percent of the total in Turkey. The other three – Kahramanmaraş, Mardin, and Osmaniye – were sheltering 235,549, or just under seven percent.

Aid agencies say that, in practice, the authorities in affected provinces continued to process Syrians pre-registered at the time of the suspension and to register people with urgent medical needs referred from Syria. They also continued to register babies born to registered Syrians in Turkey, an estimated 306 each day. Agencies with first-hand knowledge of the suspension of registration in the 10 provinces say the registration of these Syrians may explain the claim authorities made to Human Rights Watch that eight of the provinces on or near the border registered a total of 116,059 Syrians between November 1 and June 20.

One refugee aid agency with close knowledge of registration procedures in all of Turkey’s provinces told Human Rights Watch that in a few exceptional cases, authorities in Hatay and Osmaniye province have registered children in urgent need of medical care, together with one caregiver. Another refugee assistance agency that sometimes deals with unregistered Syrians said that between late 2017 and late April 2018, it had convinced the Hatay authorities to register a few dozen newly arrived Syrians on an exceptional basis because they had specific needs, but that even then it was a “headache” to get them through police checkpoints to registration offices. Agencies estimate that as of mid-May, the total number of such vulnerable cases of unregistered Syrians whom the authorities have registered on an exceptional basis was in the low hundreds.

Turkey’s travel permit system for registered Syrians prohibits unregistered Syrians from traveling from border provinces to register elsewhere. Seven Syrians told Human Rights Watch they paid smugglers to drive them from Antakya, in Hatay province, to Istanbul to register. But security officials at migration authority offices in Istanbul told them registration had been suspended for newly arriving Syrians.

UNHCR and some diplomats in Turkey told Human Rights Watch they have been encouraging Turkey’s Directorate General for Migration Management to adopt a referral system under which authorities in Hatay, or other border provinces where Syrians first arrive, would pre-register Syrians and then refer them to other provinces where fewer Syrians live to register. Some EU member states have proposed that if such a system were to be adopted, the EU should help support job-creation for Syrians and Turkish citizens in the provinces to which Syrians are referred. But all attempts to convince Turkey to set up a referral system have failed.

Consequences of Suspended Registration

In mid-May 2018, Human Rights Watch interviewed 32 Syrian asylum seekers in Antakya, the capital of Hatay Province, and the first city most Syrians reach after being smuggled across the closed Turkish border. They said the authorities in Antakya, the nearby town of Reyhanli, and in Gaziantep province had refused to register them during the first few months of 2018. They also described how not having a temporary protection permit – or “kimlik,” as it is popularly called (a Turkish shorthand for identification card) – had affected them. Human Rights Watch explained the purpose of the interviews, gave assurances of anonymity, and obtained interviewees’ consent to describe their experiences.

All said they were turned away from registration offices at least twice. Only three said they managed to register after brokers bribed registration officials between US$300 and $500.

Most said officials simply said “no more kimliks here” or “no one gets a kimlik” and told them to leave. Two said they also tried to register in Gaziantep in April, but that saw a sign on the office that said “no kimliks.”

Four said that only some members of their family had been registered, leaving the rest in legal limbo and that as a result, the entire family was contemplating returning to Syria. One man said his sick wife was given permission to enter Turkey for emergency medical treatment in Antakya, and was allowed to register there, together with their newborn baby. When he and their five other children, aged 6 to 14, managed to enter Turkey and tried to register in Antakya, they were turned away.

Three Syrians said that Turkish police had previously summarily deported them to Syria for not having a temporary protection permit. One, a 22-year-old man from Aleppo governorate, said he entered Turkey in early April and was refused registration in Antakya. In early May, he said, police stopped him at about 8 a.m. near the Antakya bus station and asked for his permit. When he said he tried to register, but had been turned away, the police drove him to a local police station, recorded his personal details, and then drove him and about 20 other unregistered Syrians to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing and deported them. He said 15 of the 20 told him they had been caught without temporary protection permits in Istanbul and the other five said they had just entered Turkey a few days earlier and were arrested after arriving at a smuggler’s house in Antakya. A few days later, he managed to return to Turkey with smugglers.

Another former deportee, a 28-year-old man from Idlib, said he and his brother entered Turkey together in January and were denied registration in Antakya. He said his brother traveled with a smuggler to Istanbul to find work there, but Turkish police arrested him on May 17 and the next day, took him to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing and deported him.

On May 22, Human Rights Watch spoke to a 31-year-old man from Hama who said the authorities in Antakya had arrested his brother a few hours earlier, were holding him in the new center for unregistered Syrians to sign up to return to Syria, and said they were about to deport him. Human Rights Watch alerted UNHCR, which intervened and prevented the deportation.

Human Rights Watch interviewed four Syrians at the newly established center for unregistered Syrians who wish to sign up for return to Syria. They decided to go back because their relatives had been denied urgent medical care, or because some family members who arrived after registration was suspended could not register.

Two Syrians said they heard from other Syrians in Antakya about many cases in which the wives of men who had been deported told Turkish authorities they planned to go back to Syria because they and their children could not survive alone in Turkey.

All of the 29 other unregistered Syrians interviewed said they lived in constant fear of arrest and deportation and said they heard of many cases involving the deportation of unregistered Syrians. Eight said they reduced their movements to a minimum, often staying at home for days at a time. A 17-year-old boy who said he never left his uncle’s house in Antakya out of fear of arrest said “this feels like prison.”

Three unregistered Syrians said they regularly use Syrian-owned driving services which use back roads to avoid police checkpoints or informal police stop-and-search patrols in Antakya.

Nine said they attempted to get medical treatment in clinics and hospitals in Antakya, but had been refused treatment because they were not registered. Four others said they did not even try to access medical care, because they heard others were turned away, and because they were afraid local hospitals would call the police to arrest them for not having a permit.

A 27-year-old woman from Idlib province seeking cancer treatment said two hospitals in Antakya refused to treat her because she did not have a permit.

A 34-year-old, eight months’ pregnant woman from Aleppo, with four children all born by caesarean section, said she was too afraid to go to the local hospital to ask for a checkup and prepare for her delivery, because she had been told hospitals turn away unregistered Syrians and was afraid of being arrested and returned to Syria.

Similarly, a 31-year-old woman whose entire family was refused registration in March said her husband was extremely sick with a serious lung condition, but he would not go to a hospital out of fear of being arrested and deported. She said he never left the house and lived in constant fear of being discovered.

A nongovernmental organization working with Syrians in Hatay province said that during the first few months of 2018, they heard of dozens of cases of Syrians in Antakya seeking emergency medical care, many of them pregnant women, who were turned away by hospitals because they had been denied registration.

Six Syrians interviewed by Human Rights Watch said their children were unable to go to school, because schools would only take registered Syrians.

Nowhere to Turn for Help

The Turkish authorities consider Syrians denied registration to be in the country unlawfully. Nongovernmental groups working with refugees said the government only allows them to work with lawfully present asylum seekers and refugees.

Six organizations working with refugees in Turkey’s provinces on the Syrian border – which asked to remain anonymous for the staff’s security – said Turkey strictly controls and monitors their work in various ways.

Some said they must get special permission to assess registered Syrians’ assistance needs or to visit registered Syrians’ homes, in some cases in the presence of staff from the Ministry of Family and Social Policies. The agencies said the rules are applied in an ad hoc and unpredictable way, depending on the local authorities, and they are never certain of what refugee outreach activities are allowed.

As a result, they said, they found it difficult to identify Syrians blocked from registration procedures, including the most vulnerable, for example those in urgent need of medical or other care. They also said the situation in Hatay province – through which almost all newly arriving Syrians using smugglers enter the country due to continued gaps in the border wall – is particularly sensitive.

Because of the restrictions imposed by the Turkish authorities, aid agencies said they cannot proactively identify unregistered Syrian refugees. At best, they can only react if they are made aware of unregistered Syrians who are seeking help, or if they come across them by chance. They said they sometimes raise the most vulnerable of such cases with the authorities in the hope that they will allow those in urgent need to register.

One agency working in the border areas said: “It’s very simple, we can’t just reach out to registered or unregistered Syrians. We need approval for everything and we’d never get approval to help unregistered Syrians.” Another agency worker said: “We have repeatedly asked the authorities for permission to do protection outreach work, but we’ve been refused every time.”

Agencies said their extremely limited contact with unregistered Syrians means they can neither estimate how many unregistered Syrians now live in Hatay and other provinces, nor the extent to which the registration suspension has led to deportation and denial of service access. EU member states and other donors funding Syrian refugee assistance and protection projects in Turkey therefore don’t know the extent to which Turkey’s registration suspension is excluding Syrians from receiving help.

European Union Remains Silent

EU member states and the European Commission have remained publicly silent on Turkey’s registration suspension, as they have on Turkey’s long-standing abuses against Syrian asylum seekers at the border.

Turkey’s suspension of registration could drive many Syrians underground and onward to the EU, or coerce them into going back to Syria. The suspension, Turkey’s ongoing border abuses, and its recent abuses against Afghan asylum seekers means that any attempts to return Syrians from Greece to Turkey is also likely to be met with significant resistance by lawyers challenging return attempts on the grounds that Turkey is not a safe third country to which to return asylum seekers.

On April 17, the European Commission released its latest update on whether Turkey is meeting the EU’s criteria for becoming an EU member state. As part of its assessment of Turkey’s asylum system, the commission said: “There have been reports of alleged expulsions, returns and deportations of Syrian nationals, in contradiction of the non-refoulement principle,” without going into any further details or citing the sources.

In March, the European Commission promised to release the second batch of €3 billion under its March 2016 deal with Turkey. Under the deal, the EU maintains that Turkey is a safe country to which to return Syrian asylum seekers. In fact, Turkey does not meet the EU safe third country criteria.

Recommendations

Turkey should resume temporary protection registration for all newly arriving Syrians and register those denied access to registration since late 2017. If necessary, Turkey should pre-register Syrians in its provinces on the Syrian border and require Syrians to move to, and live in, other provinces with fewer Syrians. In the meantime, Turkey should instruct all medical facilities to provide emergency medical treatment to any Syrian in need, regardless of registration status. Schools should also take in Syrian children pending their registration. All Turkish public officials should refer unregistered Syrians to the nearest registration center.

Turkey should also allow all refugee agencies working with Syrians to actively work to identify unregistered Syrians, help them access registration procedures, and raise with the authorities all cases of unregistered Syrians deported to Syria or denied access to health care and education.

To help ensure protection for Syrians in Turkey, the European Commission and EU member states with embassies in Turkey should press Turkey to resume registration of all newly arriving Syrians and guarantee their access to health care and education in line with existing policies. If Turkey requires help to resume registration, they should respond generously. They should also press Turkey to allow all agencies working with refugees to freely carry out protection monitoring work throughout Turkey to identify and assist unregistered Syrians and to publicly report on any abuses, including forced return to Syria, and denial of assistance.

Finally, the European Commission should proactively seek information and publicly report on credible accounts of killings, injuries, and mass deportations by Turkish security forces at the Syrian border, including in its regular reports on Turkey’s accession process and the European Agenda on Migration.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
 
Video

France: Migrant Kids Left to Sleep in the Street

Child protection authorities in Paris are using flawed age assessment procedures for unaccompanied migrant youths, excluding many from care they need and are entitled to. Hundreds of unaccompanied children sleep on the streets of Paris each night, according to estimates from lawyers and nongovernmental organizations.

(Paris) – Child protection authorities in Paris are using flawed age assessment procedures for unaccompanied migrant children, excluding many from care they need and are entitled to, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Hundreds of these young migrants find themselves homeless, often condemned to sleep on the streets of Paris.

The 57-page report, “‘Like a Lottery’: Arbitrary Treatment of Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Paris”, found that arbitrary practices can lead to unaccompanied children being erroneously considered adults, leaving then ineligible for emergency shelter and other protection given to children. Many youths who request protection from the child welfare system are turned away summarily and inaccurately, based on appearance alone. Others are rejected without written decisions after interviews lasting as little as five minutes, contrary to French regulations.
 

“These children have suffered through incredibly difficult and dangerous journeys, only to be deprived of the protection and care they need,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “Deeply flawed procedures mean that children may be arbitrarily turned away at the door of the evaluation office, denied protection after a short interview, or tied up in arduous court procedures and left in limbo for months.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 49 unaccompanied children and reviewed age assessments in an additional 35 cases. Human Rights Watch also spoke with lawyers, health care providers, staff and volunteers of humanitarian agencies and informal associations, and government officials.

Youths who receive full interviews are often denied recognition as children if they lack identity documents, Human Rights Watch found. But international standards and French regulations establish that the primary method of establishing approximate age should be through interviews, recognizing that documents may be lost during arduous journeys.

Even those who have documents are frequently rejected. Child welfare authorities and judges question birth certificates, passports, and other identity documents despite the rule in French law that such documents are presumptively valid unless there are substantiated reasons to believe otherwise.

The review of case files found other invalid grounds for concluding that a person was an adult. Work in the home country or on the journey to Europe was frequently cited, even though millions of children around the world work, including in hazardous or harmful forms of labor. Child protection authorities also often cited the youth’s decision to travel without parents, though many thousands of children travel on their own to Europe each year.

In other cases, examiners told youths from French-speaking countries that they spoke French too well. Imrane O., from Côte d’Ivoire, who gave his age as 15, told Human Rights Watch that his examiner “said that I was answering her questions too well. Because I could answer her questions, I couldn’t be a minor. How is that? I did eight years of schooling, in French. Of course I could answer her questions.”

In the cases studied, child protection authorities also frequently relied on subjective factors such as “bearing” or comportment. Some youths received adverse age assessments based in part on expressing irritation with repeated questioning or presenting their case forcefully, behaviors that can be exhibited at any age. Many more were simply told they had the bearing of an adult, without further explanation.

When children seek review of adverse decisions, some judges regularly order bone tests to determine their age. Medical bodies in France and elsewhere have repeatedly found that bone and other medical examinations are not a reliable means of determining age, particularly for older adolescents, and have called for ending their use.

The cumulative effect of arbitrary decision-making is that age assessments in Paris are “like a lottery: sometimes you win, but most of the time you lose, even if you’re underage,” an aid worker with the nongovernmental organization Utopia 56 told Human Rights Watch.

The number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving in Paris, as well as in France overall, has increased in recent years. France’s child welfare system took just under 15,000 unaccompanied migrant children into care in 2017. Nearly half of unaccompanied children who seek protection from the child welfare system in France do so in Paris. In February 2018, when Human Rights Watch began this research, an estimated 400 unaccompanied children were “sleeping rough” (outside) in the French capital, , according to estimates from lawyers and nongovernmental organizations. Current estimates are lower.

Ordinary citizens, on their own and in groups, have stepped in to address some of these children’s needs, providing food and other services, organizing football clubs, improvisational theatre, and other activities, and in some cases opening their homes to give children a place to stay for a night or two, or even longer.

But these laudable efforts, along with services provided by nongovernmental groups such as Médécins sans Frontières and Utopia 56, depend on volunteers and cannot meet the need. In contrast, France has both the means and the obligation to provide appropriate care and protection to all children within French territory, regardless of migration status.

French national and departmental authorities should ensure that age assessments are used only when authorities have well-founded doubts about an individual’s claim to be under 18, Human Rights Watch said. In such cases, they should take appropriate steps to determine age and establish eligibility for services, bearing in mind that all age assessments will be estimates. These steps should include interviews by professionals with the expertise to work with children, as international standards recommend.

France also should end the use of bone tests and similar discredited medical examinations.

“Instead of giving youths the benefit of the doubt, as they should, child protection services seem to be doing everything they can to exclude youths from the child care system,” Jeannerod said. “The French authorities should immediately put an end to arbitrary age decisions and provide sufficient resources to take care of and protect unaccompanied migrant children.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(New York) – The Afghan government is failing to protect tens of thousands of children, some as young as 5, from hazardous conditions in the workplace, in violation of Afghanistan’s labor laws.

Helal, 10, works as a brick maker at a brick kiln outside Kabul. He told Human Rights Watch that the brick mold is heavy and his hands hurt working with wet clay. Helal doesn’t go to school because he has to work. 

© 2016 Bethany Matta/Human Rights Watch

The 31-page report, “‘They Bear All the Pain’: Hazardous Child Labor in Afghanistan,” documents how child workers work dangerous jobs in Afghanistan’s carpet industry; as bonded labor in brick kilns; and as metal workers. They perform tasks that could result in illness, injury, or even death due to hazardous working conditions and poor enforcement of safety and health standards. Many children who work under those conditions combine the burdens of a job with school, or forego education altogether. Working compels many children in Afghanistan to leave school prematurely. Only half of children involved in child labor attend school. 

“Thousands of Afghan children risk their health and safety every day to put food on the family table,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Afghan government needs to do a better job of protecting its children – and the country’s future – by enforcing the law prohibiting dangerous work for children.”

Video

Video: Kids at Work, Out of School in Afghanistan

The Afghan government is failing to protect tens of thousands of children, some as young as 5, from hazardous conditions in the workplace, in violation of Afghanistan’s labor laws. 

The government has failed to enforce prohibitions against child labor in hazardous industries, and has stalled in its effort to overhaul its labor law to bring it into line with international standards, Human Rights Watch said. Government institutions responsible for enforcing the law often lack the capacity to inspect workplaces, with the result that children working in prohibited jobs go unnoticed and unprotected.

In 2014, the Afghan government published a list of 19 hazardous occupations prohibited for children. These jobs include carpet weaving, metal work, and brick making. While a lack of resources is an important factor in the persistence of child labor in hazardous industries, the Afghan government has also failed to enforce its labor laws through penalties for violators and a strategy to end exploitative labor conditions.

A brick kiln manager in Kabul told Human Rights Watch: “There are children here, starting from 10 years or 8 years of age to 15 or 16… They wake up at 3 in the morning and work until about evening… They complain of pain, but what can they do? The kids are here to make a living. They bear all the pain to do all the work.”

Extreme poverty often drives Afghan children into hazardous labor. Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Landlessness, illiteracy, high unemployment, and continuing armed conflict in much of the country are among the most important factors contributing to chronic poverty and, as a result, child labor.

A 13-year-old metal worker in Kabul said, “My fingers have been cut from the sharp edges of the metal and slammed by the hammer. My finger has also been caught in the trimming-beading machine. When your nail gets hit by a hammer or caught in the machine, it becomes black and eventually falls off.”

Thousands of Afghan children risk their health and safety every day to put food on the family table. The Afghan government needs to do a better job of protecting its children – and the country’s future – by enforcing the law prohibiting dangerous work for children.

Phelim Kine

Deputy Director, Asia Division

While work that is appropriate to a child’s age and under healthy and safe conditions can be beneficial to the child’s development and allow them to contribute to their family’s basic needs, work that interferes with a child’s education, or is likely to jeopardize their health or safety, is generally considered “child labor” and is prohibited under international law.

Although pilot projects extending community-based schools to reach vulnerable children have been promising, support for these schools is inadequate to the need. Eradicating child labor in Afghanistan is not feasible so long as extreme poverty continues, but the government and its donors can take steps to protect children from the risks associated with working in particularly dangerous or unhealthy conditions.

Those steps include increasing the number of labor inspectors to adequately cover the entire country; giving priority to monitoring hazardous sectors; and offering the Afghan government targeted technical assistance in devising and implementing policies, standards, and regulations against child labor. Both the government and its foreign donors should devote more resources to expanding educational support to all working children.

The government has a legal obligation under international law to take immediate action to eradicate hazardous child labor. Both Afghanistan and its foreign donors should take urgent steps to protect children from the risks associated with working in particularly dangerous or unhealthy conditions.

“When children are of legal age and work in safe conditions, they can help provide vital livelihood support for many Afghan families,” Kine said. “But the Afghan government has an obligation to enforce the laws that protect children in the workplace, and ensure that they neither have to sacrifice their education or safety as the price for supporting their families.”
 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Zama Neff is the executive director of the children's rights division of Human Rights Watch. She also co-chairs the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). Neff has conducted fact-finding investigations and is the author of reports and articles on a range of issues affecting children, including access to education, police violence, refugee protection, the worst forms of child labor, and discrimination against women and girls. She has published on op-ed pages in major international and US publications and speaks regularly to the media. During a sabbatical, she ran a protection monitoring team for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Sri Lanka. Before joining Human Rights Watch in 1999, Neff clerked for a US federal judge, advocated on behalf of immigrants and refugees in the US, and worked with community development and women's organizations in Honduras. She is a graduate of Davidson College and New York University School of Law.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

M. Saourou Sené

Secretary General

Syndicat Autonome des Enseignant du Moyen et Secondaire du Sénégal (SAEMSS)

Dakar, Senegal

 

October 12, 2018

Dear Mr. Sené,

Please accept my regards on behalf of Human Rights Watch.

I would like to thank you for our meeting in August 2017, where you provided me with information about your union’s commitment towards girls’ education, and SAEMSS’ actions to tackle school-related sexual and gender-based violence.

We are writing today to share key findings and recommendations of our upcoming report on sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse in middle and secondary schools, which we intend to publish on October 18, 2018. We would welcome the union’s official response to this letter.

Furthermore, we are writing to seek a meeting with you to present you with a copy of the report and discuss our findings in person between October 18 and 23.

We welcome SAEMSS’ commitment to tackle all forms of sexual and gender-based violence against students, and its commitment to mobilize its membership to end this practice in schools. We are also encouraged by the union’s stated goal to ensure members who commit criminal offences are held accountable for any criminal offence perpetrated against children. At our meeting, you explained that the government has not held discussions with SAEMMS to advance a common agenda on child protection in schools.

Between June 2017 and July 2018, Human Rights Watch conducted research on sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse in secondary schools in the regions of Kolda, Sédhiou and Ziguinchor, as well as in and around Dakar. Our research is based on 45 interviews with girls and young women aged 12 to 25 years, and group discussions with over 120 girls and young women. We also interviewed more than 60 teachers, school officials, other government officials, community leaders, parents and civil society representatives. 

Through the course of our research, we found that numerous adolescent girls are exposed to sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse by teachers and school officials in government middle and upper secondary schools, some of whom have had sexual relations with female students. Some girls were under 18 at the time of the abuse.

We acknowledge that our research is not representative of the situation in all secondary schools in Senegal, and that the unlawful behaviors documented by Human Rights Watch are not representative of the entire teaching profession. In fact, some teachers do their utmost to protect their students from any forms of abuse documented during our visits to their schools. Nevertheless, our findings are consistent with studies conducted by UN agencies, development partners and Senegalese nongovernmental organizations, which show that sexual and gender-based violence is a serious problem in the education system.

Our research and forthcoming report identify key areas that require SAEMMS’ prompt action to improve the safety and learning conditions of students, particularly girls and young women. We have outlined our key findings below, but we look forward to providing further details at a forthcoming meeting.

Findings of our forthcoming report

Our report identifies the need to urgently tackle sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse by teachers, in and around schools. We are particularly concerned that teachers who have engaged in unlawful behavior in schools are sometimes not held to account, whether by fellow teachers or school principals, and are not investigated for unlawful behavior. As a result, in some schools, teachers who have allegedly abused students continue to teach.

School-related sexual exploitation and harassment occur in multiple ways. Human Rights Watch found that some teachers abuse their position of authority by sexually harassing girls and engaging in sexual relations with them, often promising them money, good grades, food, or items such as mobile phones and new clothes in exchange. We documented cases of sexual exploitation and harassment in classrooms, outside school premises in teachers’ residences, in school-organized evenings, or on the way to school.

Human Rights Watch evidence gathered in schools and communities suggests that students often characterized such cases—and to a certain extent, teachers and school officials—as “relationships” between teachers and students. We believe that this type of characterization undermines the gravity of the abuse, affects reporting of these abuses, and blurs teachers’ and school officials’ perception of the severity of these abuses.

Teachers’ behaviors are not only a gross violation of teachers’ professional and ethical obligations. When the girls are below age 16, they are also a crime under Senegalese law. When teachers harass and coerce their students for sexual purposes, they are also abusing their power and authority with a child under 18, which carries the maximum sentence of 10 years. There has been a steady number of prosecutions of teachers for rape, acts of pedophilia and other types of sexual abuse, but these have been insufficient and by no means representative of the totality of school-related sexual abuses.

Teachers who engage in unlawful behaviors are also in breach of the teacher’s deontological code that all teachers pledge to respect; yet, they are often not held liable for these breaches.

At the school level, we found that the existing mechanisms to report school-related incidents are ineffective. For example, most schools lack a clearly defined adequate confidential reporting mechanism for students and teachers to report any form of abuse. Principals or senior school officials are tasked with reporting abuses against students to local child protection committee, inspectorate or police. We found that this is one of biggest bottlenecks in the system; principals have sometimes failed to report abuses through official channels or settled cases informally by negotiating a solution between the two parties, such as a payment from the teacher to the girl’s family.

Existing school-based mechanisms do not provide confidentiality for students. Girls who are sexually exploited, harassed or abused are therefore reluctant to report cases within schools. When they do come forward, teachers or senior school officials do not always take their word for it. This type of inaction at the school level leads to mistrust among students, and a feeling that even if they come forward with their case, no action will be taken. As a result, girls affected by sexual harassment, exploitation or other forms of abuse in school, rarely see their cases investigated and taken to court, when necessary, and perpetrators punished by the judiciary or subjected to disciplinary measures by the Ministry of National Education.

We strongly believe that the barriers listed above have silenced many students who are affected by school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse.

Notably, as you indicated during our meeting, teachers do not go through rigorous pre and in-service training on child protection. We found that some teachers may participate in courses and workshops led by UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations, but this is not provided to all middle and secondary school teachers. We believe there is an urgent need for teachers to undergo thorough pre and in-service training, including more ongoing training on teachers’ legal and moral obligations.

Furthermore, Senegal lacks a binding national code of conduct that outlines the obligations of teachers, school officials and education actors, and sets out clear expectations and accountability lines. The current deontological code is only voluntary. We understand that an effort was underway over two decades ago but have been stalled.

Our report will urge the government to adopt a national policy that encourages all schools and all government officials to protect students from all forms of sexual violence. This policy should make clear that any and all sexual relationships between teaching staff and students, regardless of their age, and exploitation and coercion for grades, money or basic items, are explicitly prohibited and subject to professional sanction, and that any constituting sexual offenses are subject to punishment in court. We will also call on the government to develop and adopt a nationally binding code of conduct, in consultation with all education actors, students and civil society organizations, and to urgently introduce rigorous child protection training for all teachers.

Recommendations to SAEMSS

We strongly believe that SAEMSS has a crucial role to play in making sure that its own members ensure students are safe at all times and abide by their deontological code and legal obligations to protect their students.

Given the urgency of tackling any form of sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse in schools, we urge you and SAEMMS to:

  •          Issue a public statement calling on SAEMMS’ members to abide by the teachers’ ethical code, and reiterate SAEMMS’ zero tolerance policy against school-related sexual abuses, and teachers’ responsibility to protect students and to respond to any allegations of school-related sexual abuses whenever and wherever they occur.
  •          Call on the government to develop a stand-alone policy to end sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse in schools, and support and inform the government’s process to develop a stand-alone policy;
  •         Support the development of a national code of conduct that outlines teacher and school officials’ responsibilities, and participate in its elaboration;
  •         Call on the government to establish a clearly defined adequate confidential reporting mechanism for students and teachers to report any form of school-related sexual abuse, and ensure it is informed by SAEMMS’ members experience in middle and secondary schools;

We would like to reiterate our strong interest in discussing our full findings and recommendations with you and other union officials. We would be pleased to include your responses to our findings and recommendations in the report’s annex.

Sincerely,

Elin Martinez

Researcher, Children's rights

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
Video

Video: Senegalese activists campaign against sexual abuse in schools

Abusive teachers and other staff sexually exploit, harass, and abuse adolescent girls in Senegal’s secondary schools. While Senegal has taken important steps to expand girls’ access to quality education, it needs to step up efforts to protect girls from these abuses and hold teachers who violate professional norms or Senegalese law, responsible. #ItsNotOK

(Dakar) – Abusive teachers and other staff sexually exploit, harass, and abuse adolescent girls in Senegal’s secondary schools, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. While Senegal has taken important steps to expand girls’ access to quality education, it needs to step up efforts to protect girls from these abuses and hold teachers who violate professional norms or Senegalese law, responsible.

The 85-page report, “‘It’s Not Normal’: Sexual Exploitation, Harassment and Abuse in Secondary Schools,” documents abuses against female students in secondary schools, primarily by teachers and school officials. Human Rights Watch found cases of teachers who abuse their authority by engaging in sexual relations with students in exchange for money, good grades, food, or items such as mobile phones and new clothes.

“To its credit, Senegal has acknowledged that sexual violence is a serious problem in its schools,” said Elin Martínez, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “But many teachers are getting away with sexually exploiting and harassing their students, who tolerate sexual offenses to advance in secondary school.”

The behavior is a gross violation of teachers’ professional and ethical obligations, and when victims are below age 16, is a crime under Senegalese law. Harassment and coercion of students for sexual purposes and the abuse of their power and authority over a child by teachers carries sentences of up to 10 years in prison.

Human Rights Watch conducted interviews and group discussions with over 160 girls and young women, as well as with more than 60 parents, education experts, psychologists, local activists, development partners, and national and local government officials in eight districts in four regions of Senegal.

The scale and prevalence of sexual abuse against students is unknown. Taboos and social stigmas have silenced many girls and young women affected by these practices. But research by Human Rights Watch, United Nations agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and academics, suggests that school-related sexual and gender-based violence is a serious problem in Senegal.

Students, and in some cases teachers and school officials, described some of the cases documented as “relationships” between teachers and students. Such characterization can downplay the gravity of the abuse, affect reporting, and blur school officials’ perception of the severity of these abuses. In some cases, girls get pregnant as a result, and drop out of school permanently.

Aïssatou, 16, whose real name is not used for her protection, said: “One day, he [the teacher] asked me to go to his house. When I went to his house, he offered to give me money and resources. And I told him no… He became nasty, [he said] he was not going to give me good grades.”

Students are also harassed by teachers and are affected by the gender stereotypes and sexual overtones in class. Some girls said their teachers use inappropriate language or gestures – describing girls’ bodies or clothes in a sexual manner – when talking to students directly or referring to other students in their class.

The government has taken steps to tackle sexual violence and gender-based discrimination in schools as part of broader efforts to increase girls’ access to, and retention in, secondary education. In 2013, it adopted a robust child protection strategy. With international support, the government has also focused on reducing teenage pregnancies, including through programs that help girls stay in secondary school.

Some schools have tried to ensure that students study in a safe learning environment, adopting zero tolerance policies for school-related abuses or by making girls comfortable with reporting abuse. Lalia Mané, a middle school teacher and a member of the government’s girls’ education initiative, said: “I tell my students, if there’s a teacher that asks you for favors … you must go press charges at the police station.”

But these measures are not replicated in all secondary schools because there is no national policy to tackle school-related sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse.

Key factors that undermined the consistent reporting of sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse include cultural perceptions that girls and young women are responsible for their teachers’ advances; a concern over losing teachers, and the lack of clarity on what constitutes sexual exploitation. Schools generally lack confidential systems for reporting, and many girls are reluctant to report abuse for fear that officials will shame them or not believe them.

The government should adopt a stronger national response to end sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse in schools, including a national policy that clarifies what constitutes unlawful or inappropriate behavior. It should make clear that any and all sexual “relationships” between teaching staff and students, and exploitation and coercion are explicitly prohibited and subject to professional sanction. It should ensure that principals and senior school staff understand their obligation to properly investigate any allegations of sexual abuse and to refer cases to police or prosecutors. Human Rights Watch found that schools do not adequately teach children about sexuality, reproductive health, and their sexual and reproductive rights. The government should adopt a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum that follows international standards and ensure that young people have access to good adolescent health services.

“The government wants girls to succeed in education,” Martínez said. “But it needs to end the culture of silence around abuse by teachers, encourage girls to speak out, and send an unequivocal message to all education staff that it will not tolerate sexual violence against students.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

 

Summary

In a village in the southern region of Sédhiou, 23-year old Fanta told Human Rights Watch about a secret “relationship” she had with her 30-year-old teacher, which began when she was 16. “I felt the shame in class … my classmates knew I was going out with him,” Fanta told Human Rights Watch. And so did other teachers, “but they said nothing.”

Fanta realized she was pregnant when she was 17. When her father tried to come to an arrangement with the teacher – a usual step taken by families who want to settle issues discretely to avoid facing their village’s scorn—he denied being the father of the child Fanta was expecting. “I told him ‘you have ruined my girls’ education,’ but he denied everything,” Fanta’s father, Cheikh, told Human Rights Watch. Even after it became evident that Fanta was pregnant, the school never investigated the matter, and the principal did not reach out to her, Fanta felt even more ashamed by the teacher’s denial: “I felt humiliated in front of my classmates.”

In Senegal, girls like Fanta face high levels of sexual and gender-based violence, including sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse, by teachers and other school officials. Unfortunately, these girls have few options for justice. Such cases are not often reported or investigated by school authorities. In some cases, families prefer to negotiate with men who make girls pregnant, including reaching agreement with the men to provide financial support for the girls during pregnancy, rather than to seek redress through official channels. But in many other cases, these girls would not inform their families because the taboos and stigma associated with such pregnancies are so damaging.

Share

© 2018 Human Rights Watch

The scale and prevalence of sexual abuse against students is unknown, however, research by United Nations agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and academics indicates that school-related sexual and gender-based violence is a serious problem in the country’s education system.

Based on research conducted in 2017 in Senegal’s southern-most regions of Kolda, Sédhiou and Ziguinchor, as well as in and around the capital, Dakar, this report exposes the oft-underreported practice of school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse primarily perpetrated by teachers and school officials and urges the government of Senegal to adopt key measures to stop these unlawful practices –which sometimes also constitute criminal offenses—in its schools.

This report, using the World Health’s Organization definition of sexual exploitation as any “actual or attempted abuse of position of vulnerability, differential power or trust, for sexual purposes,” documents how adolescent girls are exposed to sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse by teachers and school officials in public middle and upper secondary schools.

Video

Video: Senegalese activists campaign against sexual abuse in schools

Abusive teachers and other staff sexually exploit, harass, and abuse adolescent girls in Senegal’s secondary schools. While Senegal has taken important steps to expand girls’ access to quality education, it needs to step up efforts to protect girls from these abuses and hold teachers who violate professional norms or Senegalese law, responsible. #ItsNotOK

Human Rights Watch interviewed 42 girls and young women ranging in age from 12 to 25 years, and held group discussions with a total of 122 secondary school girls, most of whom attended 14 public middle (écoles moyen) and 8 upper-secondary (lycées) schools across different regions of the country.

Human Rights Watch found that some teachers abuse their position of authority by sexually harassing girls and engaging in sexual relations with them, many of whom are under 18. The teachers often lure them with the promise of money, good grades, food, or items such as mobile phones and new clothes. Female students—and to a certain extent, teachers and school officials—often characterized it as “relationships” between teachers and students. Human Rights Watch believes that this type of characterization undermines the gravity of the abuse, affects reporting, and blurs the perpetrators’ perception of the severity of these abuses. Many of the cases documented in this report should be treated, and prosecuted, as sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

Sexual exploitation and harassment by teachers takes place in a variety of ways: some teachers would approach their students –during classes, or school evening activities — demanding a favor or requesting their phone numbers. When girls turned down teachers’ proposals, they believed the teachers punished them for rejecting their advances by awarding them lower grades than they deserved, ignoring and not letting them participate in class discussions or exercises. Often, the exploitation and harassment span months or in one case, years.

Girls are also affected by the gender stereotypes and sexual overtones they experience in class. Some girls told Human Rights Watch their teachers use inappropriate language or gestures –for example, describing girls’ bodies or clothes in a sexual manner—when talking to students directly or referring to other students in their class. Some girls feel wary when they know a teacher is making advances on a friend or classmate. When these types of harassment or abuse take place, teachers, parents, or even classmates, often blame the girls for attracting unnecessary attention from teaches, or provoking teachers with their outfits.

Senegal lacks a binding national code of conduct that outlines the obligations of teachers, school officials and education actors vis-à-vis students. However, teachers in Senegal, like their peers in many other countries, swear to adhere to a non-binding ethical and professional oath when they begin their teaching careers, pledging never to use their authority over students for sexual purposes.

Teachers’ behaviors outlined in this report are not only a gross violation of these professional and ethical obligations, but also a crime under Senegalese law when the girls are below age 16. Harassment and coercion of students for sexual purposes and the abuse of their power and authority over a child by teachers carries the maximum sentence of 10 years.

There have been reports in the Senegalese media of rape by teachers in schools across the country, raising serious concerns about what many girls may be going through. Since 2013, media reports show that at least 24 primary and secondary school teachers have been prosecuted for rape or acts of pedophilia – both constitute sexual offenses under Senegalese law. Although it is important that these prosecutions have taken place, our findings suggest that prosecution, professional sanction by superiors, or redress for other forms of sexual violence, particularly sexual exploitation, has been limited.

But many cases of sexual exploitation and harassment by teachers have gone unreported, and school authorities have not held perpetrators accountable. This is partly because reporting cases of sexual abuse or violence in schools overwhelmingly relies on a principal’s decision to act on or ignore a complaint, and because families are reluctant to report cases to the police. Although some principals take allegations seriously, they try to conduct informal investigations, talk to staff discretely, and address problems internally, to protect their staff, retain teachers, or prevent scrutiny from education inspectorates or child protection committees.

In addition, talking about sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse is considered a taboo topic for many girls. Moreover, many students do not fully understand what sexual offenses are. Education about the full spectrum of offenses, or how to prevent and report sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse is scarce, and certainly not part of a national effort.

Even when girls who are sexually exploited, harassed or abused want to come forward, they are reluctant to report cases within schools for fear of being stigmatized or shamed. When they do come forward, senior school officials do not always take their word for it, and in some cases, are told that they have provoked their teachers. This has led to mistrust among students, and a feeling that reporting abuses will amount to nothing. As a result, girls affected by sexual exploitation, harassment, or other forms of abuse, rarely see their cases investigated, or see their perpetrators brought to account through the judiciary and the Ministry of National Education.

To its credit, the government has taken steps to tackle sexual violence and gender-based discrimination in schools as part of broader efforts to increase girls’ access to, and retention in, secondary education. In 2013, it adopted a robust child protection strategy, which launched child protection committees at all administrative levels. With international support, the government has also targeted some resources, seeking to end teenage pregnancies, and to empower girls. Many of these programs have not yet been taken to scale, remain contingent on donor’s financial support and have failed to address widespread sexual exploitation in schools.

Many school teachers, according to Human Rights Watch research, are genuinely working to ensure that students study in a safe learning environment, so that they can successfully complete their education. Many focus on tackling school-related sexual abuse. For example, some school principals have, on their own initiative, adopted zero tolerance policies for school-related abuses, and have openly talked about unlawful and unacceptable behaviors, to make girls feel comfortable with reporting any abuse or harmful behavior. Also, some committed teachers have dealt with these issues through child rights and child protection trainings, and organized awareness raising events at school to break down the taboos associated with these abuses.

Existing efforts to ensure retention of girls in secondary schools have often complemented school-based initiatives to curb teenage pregnancy rates. These have tended to focus on opening extra-curricular spaces for students to discuss family planning, and how to avoid HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

But the government needs to do a lot more to ensure students have access to adequate comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education. The government has been needlessly slow to adopt a national comprehensive sexual and reproductive health curriculum. At time of writing, it was reluctant to include content on sexuality in the curriculum due to concerns that teaching sexuality contradicts Senegal’s cultural and moral values, as well as pressure from religious groups.

Most public secondary schools in the regions where Human Rights Watch conducted research do not provide adequate, comprehensive and scientifically-accurate content on sexuality or reproduction. In most schools, abstinence remains the leading message. Some of the teachers who lead extra-curricular spaces provide students with some information about contraception, on the basis that this information will only be applied once students get married. Also, there are limited opportunities for young people to obtain useful information within the community. Although the government has made efforts to increase coverage of adolescent health services –including by setting up centers specializing in adolescents’ needs in most regional capitals—it has not guaranteed adequate coverage in rural areas.

Human Rights Watch calls on the government of Senegal to adopt a stronger national response to end sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse in schools. Among its top priorities, the government should adopt a nation-wide policy to tackle sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse in schools. This policy should clarify what constitutes unlawful or inappropriate behavior, and make clear that any and all sexual “relationships” between teaching staff and students, and exploitation and coercion for grades, money or basic items, such as food or mobile phones, are explicitly prohibited and subject to professional sanction. It should clarify that such “relationships” deemed to be constituting sexual offenses will be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators punished.

The government should also focus on increasing accountability for school-related sexual offenses. It should ensure principals and senior school staff understand their obligation to properly investigate any allegation of sexual exploitation, harassment, or abuse. It should introduce adequate trainings on child protection for all teachers, through pre and in-service training.

The government should strive to end the culture of silence around school-related sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse, including by making reporting processes clearer, confidential and student-friendly, and roll-out a public education campaign directed at students and young people. This campaign should tackle the stereotypes, taboos and stigma that make girls and young women feel that they are guilty for sexual abuses committed against them. The campaign should also seek to equip students with the knowledge to understand what sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse is, and the confidence to speak out whenever it happens.

 

Key Recommendations

To the Government of Senegal

Adopt Stronger Measures to End School-Related Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Abuse

  • Adopt a national education policy against sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse, that includes: guidance on what constitutes or could lead up to these abuses, procedures to be adopted when cases are reported to school staff, clear school-based enforcement mechanisms and sanctions, and referrals to police.
  • Adopt a nationwide binding professional code of conduct for principals, teachers and education officials that is displayed in all schools.
  • Ensure that legislation relating to school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse, are rigorously enforced, and that perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice and punished with sanctions that are commensurate to their crimes.

Investigate All Allegations of School-Related Sexual Exploitation, Harassment, and Abuse

  • Adequately respond to cases of sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse against students in educational institutions by ensuring that:
    • All schools have functioning confidential and independent reporting mechanisms appropriate to the local school context. These could involve a trained counsellor or designated teacher at a minimum, or a reporting mechanism or telephone hotline system set up to refer complaints directly to a designated member of the relevant child protection committee.
    • Students affected are promptly referred to external services for health, psychological support and contraceptive needs.
    • Senior school officials conduct investigations following any allegations of misconduct, and where a law is violated, refer alleged perpetrators to the police.
    • Perpetrators of sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse are suspended from any position of authority affecting the complainant or the investigation during investigations, and if there is sufficient evidence, prosecuted, in line with international fair trial standards, or dealt with through the government’s disciplinary process for civil servants.

Urgently Tackle Barriers that Impede Girls’ Education

  • Ensure secondary education is fully free by removing tuition fees and indirect costs charged by schools.

Provide Adequate Training for Education Staff and Teacher Placement

  • Implement mandatory pre-service teacher training on existing laws on sexual offenses, and the new national school policy against sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse, child rights, and the national child protection strategy. All new teachers, school leadership and administrative staff should be trained before their first placement.
  • Adopt and roll-out a focused in-service training on sexual and gender-based violence in schools, starting with heads of school, senior school staff and teachers, and school inspectors.

Adopt a Strong Curriculum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

  • Ensure the curriculum on reproductive health education complies with international standards, and ensure that the national curriculum:
    • Expands to include comprehensive information on sexuality and reproductive health, including information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, responsible sexual behavior, prevention of early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; and is mandatory, age-appropriate, and scientifically accurate.

Amend and/or Adopt Laws to Strengthen Protection for Children Affected by Abuses

  • Amend the Penal Code to include:
    • A provision that specifies the minimum age of consent to sexual activity, equal for all children, in accordance with international human rights norms and best practice.
    • A specific criminal offense for an adult who has sexual relations with children under the minimum age of consent. 

Methodology

This report is based on research conducted in June, August, October and November 2017, and July 2018, in the regions of Kolda, Sédhiou and Ziguinchor, as well as in and around the capital, Dakar. Human Rights Watch chose these regions because they have some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the country, as well as high levels of child marriage and low secondary school retention, according to United Nations and government figures. We also consulted local and national nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), many of whom shared information or evidence from their existing programming assisting children affected by sexual and gender-based violence in these regions.

Human Rights Watch conducted 42 individual interviews with 27 girls and 15 young women. Their ages ranged from 12 to 25 years. Thirty-three attended school at the time of the interview while the other nine were no longer in school. We conducted the bulk of the interviews at 14 public middle schools (collèges d’enseignement moyen) and 8 upper-secondary (lycées) schools across different regions. Three of the girls said they were married, and nine girls and young women were pregnant or already had children. Although Human Rights Watch also interviewed girls who attended Franco-Arab, faith-based, and private secular schools, the findings included in this report focus on the situation in secular government secondary schools.

We also conducted focus group discussions with a total of 122 secondary school students in 4 public schools and in 4 villages, ranging from 7 to 22 participants in each of the groups. We organized group discussions to understand the key barriers affecting girls’ education, and ways in which school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse affect female students in their daily lives. All participants were informed that they could speak individually to researchers following group discussions.

Interviews were conducted in French, or in Wolof, Pular, Jola, or Mandinka, and translated into French by adolescent health volunteers and representatives of nongovernmental organizations who accompanied Human Rights Watch researchers.

Human Rights Watch makes every effort to abide by best practice standards for ethical research and documentation of sexual violence. We preceded and ended all interviews with a detailed explanation of informed consent to ensure that interviewees understood the nature and purpose of the interview and could choose whether to speak with researchers. In each case, we explained how we would use and disseminate the information, and sought the interviewees’ permission to include their experiences and recommendations in this report. Human Rights Watch informed girls and young women that they could stop or pause the interview at any time and could decline to answer questions or discuss particular topics.

Some girls and young women preferred not to discuss personal experiences of school-related sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse, but spoke about friends or classmates affected by these experiences. Six girls and young women said they themselves suffered sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse in the context of school. A further 10 girls and young women provided information on cases of sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse of friends or relatives. Most girls and young women interviewed knew of fellow classmates who had experienced school-related sexual exploitation or harassment.

In addition, the report includes information based on 11 interviews with teachers and activists, as well as mental health, adolescent health and child protection experts who supported girls and young women who had endured sexual exploitation, harassment, or abuse in the context of school. Finally, researchers interviewed four relatives or legal guardians of girls or young women who had experienced sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse.

Human Rights Watch makes no claims about the scale of school-related sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse by teachers in secondary schools across all of Senegal. Based on our research and findings, we note that issues raised in this report are underreported and the scale of school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse of female and male students is unknown. Reporting on sexual abuse against girls and young women is greatly affected by deeply entrenched taboos and stigma associated with both talking about, and coming forward to report, any form of sexual abuse committed against girls. The issue is also compounded by the lack of confidential reporting mechanisms.

However, evidence suggests that many girls and young women are affected by school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse. Our findings on these particular abuses are consistent with evidence gathered by the government, UN agencies and national and international organizations, which shows that these abuses occur in the regions where we conducted research, as well as in other parts of the country.

For protection reasons, names of children and young women used in the report are pseudonyms. Focus group discussions are referenced by location, and not by school, to further protect those interviewed. Some teachers and senior school officials are referred to anonymously to protect their identity where information provided could result in retaliation by perpetrators, other school officials or local government authorities. Also, for protection reasons we do not specify exact locations of children or alleged perpetrators.

Human Rights Watch also interviewed local and national government officials at the Ministry of National Education; the Ministry of Health and Social Action; and the Ministry of Youth, Employment and Citizen Building, as well as 4 village chiefs, 15 school staff, including principals, school supervisors (“surveillants”) and teachers, and over 40 NGO representatives, including those focused on education, child rights, sexual and reproductive health, and youth empowerment. We also interviewed mental health experts and practitioners, and development partners.

Human Rights Watch did not provide interviewees with financial compensation in exchange for an interview.

We reviewed Senegalese national law, government policies and reports, donor progress reports, government submissions to United Nations bodies, UN reports, NGO reports, academic articles, newspaper articles, and social media discussions, among others. The report’s recommendations were informed by global evidence-based guidance from the Global Working Group to End School-Related Gender-Based Violence.

The exchange rate at the time of the research was approximately US$1 = 530 Central African Francs (FCFA); this rate has been used for conversions in the text, which have sometimes been rounded to the nearest dollar.

Terminology

In this report, the term “child” refers to anyone under the age of 18, consistent with usage in international law. The term “adolescent” is used to describe children and young adults from ages 10 to 19.[1]

Lower secondary education refers to the first four years of compulsory secondary education in “middle” schools, referred to in the report as 6eme, 5eme, 4eme and 3eme. Upper secondary education refers to the final two years of secondary education in “high schools” or “lycée,” which are not compulsory in Senegal.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “gender-based violence is considered to be any harmful act directed against individuals or groups of individuals on the basis of their gender. It may include sexual violence, domestic violence … forced/early marriage and harmful traditional practices.”[2]

Human Rights Watch uses the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of sexual violence as “[a]ny sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic or otherwise directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting.”[3]

WHO defines sexual exploitation as “any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, threatening or profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.”[4]

 

I. Background

Sexual and gender-based violence against girls and women remains a widespread and pervasive problem in Senegal.[5] From a young age, girls face multiple sociocultural barriers and harmful practices that impact on many of their rights, including their right to education.[6]

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern over Senegal’s low enrolment rates of children, especially girls, in all levels of education, owing to early marriage, parents’ preference for educating boys, and teenage pregnancy.[7]

The government, together with international development partners, has acknowledged and taken some important steps to tackle the country’s high level of violence against women and girls and the barriers to education. It has launched multiple national awareness campaigns, women’s empowerment and girls’ education initiatives, and various policy initiatives.[8]

In 1995, Senegal kicked-off its efforts in girls’ education through the Girls’ Schooling (Scolarisation des Filles or SCOFI) project with the aim of mainstreaming gender-specific policies within the Ministry of National Education, focusing on girls’ needs in schools, and reviewing harmful stereotypes embedded in curriculum and teaching, among others.[9] With the support of donors, including the UN, the government also established a national committee of teachers to promote girls’ education (CNEP-SCOFI). Teachers have been instrumental in its roll-out, although this has largely happened through teachers’ own initiatives to organize campaigns locally, and find money from private sources to distribute school materials, uniforms, and items needed for the poorest families.[10]

Many other time-bound initiatives have followed since then, leading the government to set up a coordinating mechanism on girls’ education.[11] Multiple donor countries, including the United States, Italy and the United Kingdom, as well as multilateral donors like the World Bank, have supported the government’s efforts by funding small-scale, gender-specific programs aimed primarily at improving the quality of education, and increasing girls’ enrollment and retention. [12]

As a UN member state, the government has also endorsed major global sustainable development commitments to ensure free quality primary and secondary education to all children, eliminate gender disparities in education, end child marriage, and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services.[13] In 2016, Senegal also launched the African Union’s campaign to end child marriage.[14] As part of this campaign, the government committed to raise the age of marriage for girls to 18.[15]

But while these government efforts have helped increase girls’ access to education, they have failed to protect girls in and out of school from a wide range of human rights abuses.

Key Issues Holding Girls’ Education Back

Poverty, child marriage, teenage pregnancies, sexual exploitation and harassment by teachers and students, and violence in school are among the main factors that prevent girls from completing their secondary education.

Low Secondary School Enrollment and Lack of Inclusion

In Senegal, primary and lower-secondary education is, in theory, free and compulsory for all girls and boys age 6 to 16.[16] In practice, secondary school students may be required to pay close to 40,000 FCFA (US$75) in tuition fees, furniture costs and extra tuition for afternoon classes.[17]

However, in 2013, the last year for which official statistics were publicly available at time of writing, approximately 1.5 million children aged 7 – 16, representing 47 percent of children of primary and lower-secondary school going age, were not in formal education.[18] Government statistics show that there is near gender parity in secondary school enrollment, albeit stemming from a very low net enrolment rate: only 32 percent of girls and 35 percent of boys were enrolled in secondary school between 2008 and 2012.[19]

In rural areas –which generally have higher out of school rates—the government has focused on reducing the distance from homes to school by building more “community” middle schools. This has led to a significant reduction in the time children spend walking or getting to school, and in some cases, helped parents feel more comfortable with sending girls to school.[20]

While government statistics do not provide an accurate picture of how many children with disabilities live in the country, they do show that the majority of children with disabilities are out of school in Senegal. The government estimates that close to 17,000 girls and 19,000 boys with mild to severe disabilities, age 7 – 16, are out of school.[21]

Child Marriage, Unwanted Pregnancies and Lack of Contraceptives

In Senegal, as girls reach puberty and adolescence, they are often already married. Nearly one in three girls is married before turning 18.[22] In 2010, more than nine percent of girls were married by age 15.[23]

Girls have little access to sexual and reproductive health services, including contraceptives, and teenage pregnancy frequently ends a girl’s schooling. One in ten girls and one in twenty boys age 15-24 had their first sexual encounter before they were 15 years old.[24]

Teenage pregnancy rates remain very high across the country, with higher concentrations in the southern regions of Senegal, as well as Dakar.[25] Eight percent of girls aged 15 to 19 have already given birth.[26] Use of modern contraception remains weak: only 20 percent of adolescents who have sexual relations report using these methods. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy sexual and reproductive health and rights organization, only 25 percent of sexually active unmarried Senegalese women were using a modern method of contraception.[27] Although abortion is illegal, except in very restrictive conditions to save a pregnant woman’s life, an estimated 24 percent of unintended pregnancies, including among girls, end in induced abortions. In most cases, clandestine abortions are conducted by untrained providers.[28]

According to a study conducted by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Groupe pour L’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population (GEEP), a national education research organization, at least 1971 cases of pregnancies were registered in schools from 2011 to 2014.[29] Comprehensive, accurate statistics on teenage pregnancies in schools are not available, due in part to the lack of an information system to record cases.[30]

In 2007, the government adopted a “re-entry” policy for young mothers, overturning its previous position to expel pregnant girls from school. The policy stipulates that girls will be suspended from school until delivery and can go back upon presentation of a medical certificate stating they are physically able to resume their studies.[31] Despite this positive accommodation, many girls do not return to school as they lack financial and family support. According to the joint UNFPA-GEEP study, more than 54 percent of young mothers dropped out of school between 2011 and 2014. Fifteen percent of young mothers resumed their education in that same period.[32]

School-Related Sexual and Gender Based Violence

Although the scale of sexual abuse against students is unknown, evidence collected by nongovernmental organizations, UN agencies and academics suggests that school-related sexual and gender-based violence –which includes rape, sexual exploitation and harassment—is a serious problem in the education system. [33]

In 2012, the government recognized the prevalence of school-related sexual and gender-based violence, and that girls are the main victims of sexual violence in school.[34] A government study on violence against children in schools primarily conducted in four regions—including Kolda and Ziguinchor where Human Rights Watch conducted research—showed that sexual exploitation, harassment and rape were prevalent: 37 percent of 731 girls declared being affected by school-related sexual harassment, 13 percent were affected by pedophilia, which includes any gesture, touching, or caressing for sexual purposes on children under 16.[35] Nearly 14 percent of those surveyed reported rape. The study revealed that in 42 percent of cases reported, teachers were the first perpetrators of these crimes.[36]

According to the joint UNFPA-GEEP study cited previously most school-related teenage pregnancies recorded between 2011 – 2014 were as a result of sexual relationships with fellow students.[37] Notwithstanding this finding, the study also shows that girls are victims of sexual abuse, or are pressured into sexual relationships, by their peers or adults –teachers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers—who exploit their vulnerability, and their inability to negotiate protected sex.[38]

In 2015, a UN expert body on women’s rights expressed “profound concern at the level of sexual violence to which girls are subjected [in Senegal], particularly at school, which is often followed by early pregnancy.”[39]

 

II. Senegal’s Legal and Policy Framework on Sexual Exploitation, Harassment and Abuse

Senegalese legislation does not specifically stipulate a minimum age for sexual consent.[40] The country’s Penal Code does not include a specific criminal offense for anyone who has sexual relations with children under 18. Most sexual offenses cover acts of sexual abuse of children under 16.

Senegal’s penal code narrowly defines rape as “any act of sexual penetration [of any kind] … committed against a person through violence, coercion, threat or surprise.”[41] Rape is punished with five to ten years imprisonment. Rape or attempted rape of a child under 13 years of age, or a person who is particularly vulnerable because of pregnancy, advanced age or health condition leading to a physical or mental disability, carries the maximum sentence.[42]

Molesting a child under 13 years of age carries a sentence of two to five years imprisonment.[43] The penal code also criminalizes “harassing others by using orders, gestures, threats, words, writings or restraints in order to obtain favors of a sexual nature by a person who abuses the authority conferred on him or her.” If a victim is under 16, a perpetrator can be imprisoned for three years.[44] Moreover, acts constituting pedophilia –a crime under Senegalese law—are defined as “any gesture, touching, caressing, pornographic manipulation, use of images or sounds… for sexual purposes on a child under 16 of either sex.” [45]

If any acts of a sexual nature, or attempts to act, are perpetrated by an adult who has “authority over the minor,” those “responsible for their education,” or state officials, among others, the perpetrator will be imprisoned for 10 years.[46]

The penal code does not include a specific offense for omitting to report a sexual offense committed against a child. However, not reporting a crime listed in the penal code, particularly where reporting it could prevent further offenses, is subject to a sentence of up to three years, or a fine of up to 1 million FCFA (Us$1,887).[47]

Teachers’ Ethical Responsibilities

Senegal lacks a binding national code of conduct that outlines the obligations of teachers, school officials and education actors vis-à-vis students.[48] Schools are expected to define their own regulations around student and teacher discipline, but the Ministry of National Education does not provide parameters to shape the content of these regulations.[49]

The teachers’ professional and ethical code – an oath sworn by all members of the teaching profession - is the only non-binding document that stipulates teachers’ commitments toward their profession, students and society, among other groups. Teachers pledge to protect students from any form of sexual abuse, and to avoid any form of verbal abuse, particularly discriminatory language, frustration or stigma.[50]

Once they are certified to teach, teachers also swear by an oath that includes the following commitments to protect their students:

I forbid myself to voluntarily be a cause of wrong or corruption or any seduction with regard to students, girls or boys ... I pledge to protect girls and boys against all forms of abuse ... I swear never to use my authority over students for sexual purposes ...[51]

In addition, they pledge that “my position in school gives me a special responsibility in the education and training, of girls and boys, [and] their protection against any form of aggression, including sexual remarks or attitudes.”[52]

 

III. Sexual Exploitation, Harassment and Abuse by Teachers in Schools

There are teachers who tell you “go out with me, I am going to give you resources.”
—Amy, 17, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 2017

Different forms of sexual violence remain pervasive in secondary schools in Senegal.[53] Human Rights Watch found that school-related sexual exploitation and harassment by teachers is a significant, yet oft underreported problem in secondary schools. [54] Students are particularly vulnerable to these abuses on the way to school, around teachers’ homes, as well as during students’ evening gatherings, which are sometimes organized on school premises.[55]

Teachers abuse their position of authority when they approach their students for sex, in violation of their professional ethics, and in some cases, when girls are younger than 16 years old, under Senegalese law.

In some of the areas where Human Rights Watch conducted research, the low retention rate of girls appears to be closely linked to fear that girls will be exposed to sexual harassment and gender-based violence in school, or that girls will be at high risk of pregnancy because of the school environment.[56]

Overview

Human Rights Watch found that some teachers and school staff have sexual relationships with female students, many of whom are children at the time this happened. Six girls and young women told Human Rights Watch that they had suffered sexual exploitation, harassment, or abuse in the school context. A further 10 girls and young women provided information on cases of sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse of friends or relatives.

Although Human Rights Watch makes no claims about the scale of school-related sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse by teachers in secondary schools across all of Senegal, the evidence we obtained in the regions where we conducted research suggests that taboos and social stigmas have silenced many girls and young women who are affected by school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse. The findings in the following sections are consistent with evidence gathered by the government, UN agencies and national and international organizations, which show that school-related sexual and gender-based violence is a serious problem in the education system, and that these abuses take place in the regions where we conducted the research, as well as in other parts of the country.[57]

Some of the cases included in this section were, according to evidence gathered in schools and communities, most often characterized by students—and to a certain extent, teachers and school officials—as “relationships” between teachers and students. Human Rights Watch believes that such characterization can undermine the gravity of the abuse, affect reporting of such abuses, and blur school officials’ perception of the severity of these abuses.

In recent years, some teachers have been prosecuted for raping or sexually abusing students. Although these prosecutions have conveyed a strong message that sexual abuse against children will be punished severely, many other abuses—notably sexual exploitation by teachers—go unpunished.

Unsafe Way to School

Sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse of students also happen regularly as girls and young women are in transit to and from school. Students are exposed to a variety of risks: harassment and sexual exploitation from commercial motorcycle drivers–colloquially known as “Jakarta men”—who transport students to schools, shopkeepers or other adults who come in contact with children, as well as harassment–and in a small number of cases, rape—by military personnel stationed in checkpoints close to schools.[58]

In cases documented by Human Rights Watch, drivers offered girls—who often travel long distances to school and cannot pay for transport—rides for sex. Most motorcycle drivers are adult men, although some older boys who have dropped out of school prematurely also join the motor taxi sector. [59]

 

Teachers’ Abuse of Power

If you refuse [him], he gives you really bad grades or he fails you.
—Kodda, 17, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 2017

All school principals interviewed by Human Rights Watch condemned sexual abuse or harassment against students, and most did not openly acknowledge any contemporary cases of sexual harassment in their schools. Yet, based on individual interviews and group discussions with students in five schools, Human Rights Watch found that some teachers are engaging in “relationships” with students in those schools – which, in many cases, would constitute sexual offenses—and students are regularly exposed to sexual harassment and unwarranted sexual overtones by teachers.

Several students described to Human Rights Watch how teachers attempted to exploit or coerce female students, offering them money, better grades, food or items such as mobile phones and new clothes.[60] The government’s study on sexual and gender-based violence in schools, quoted in a previous section, shows that the girls surveyed reported that they experience coercion “like a grave and recurring form of violence.”[61]

In at least three instances documented by Human Rights Watch, teachers approached their students by demanding a favor or requesting their phone numbers in private. According to Maïmouna, 16, who lives in Medina Yoro Foulah, “Teachers take students numbers and call them at night.” In her case, her French teacher sent her to get water for him, and then asked her to take it to his room in the school: “But after, he met me there and asked for my phone number.” Maïmouna refused.[62]

A school principal in Sédhiou told Human Rights Watch how one of the teachers in his former school in rural Sédhiou harassed a student. He investigated the case because the student’s mother threatened the teacher with legal action: “[It was about] a child in the 5eme year – she was 13 or 14. I called them [teacher and student] and she told me everything. In that case, the student’s mother filed a report [with the principal] … she said it had to stop or they would meet in the tribunals. So, this was severe. It was a case of harassment and coercion… [the teacher] used to say ‘I’ll see you at home.’ Really, it was fishy. He said: ‘if you don’t love me … I will give you zero [in exams]’ [and] ‘I called you, you gave me your number, and you haven’t called me’.”[63]

Some students also told Human Rights Watch they feel pressured to obtain good grades in the “Brevet de fin d’études moyennes,” an exam that allows students to proceed to high school, and the “Baccalaureate” exam, at the very end of high school. According to some students, it is very difficult to pass these exams, and many will end up re-sitting the year in order to obtain a better grade.[64] As a result, girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation in the academic year leading up to the exam.

The frequent phenomenon of sexual exploitation for grades is often colloquially referred to as sexually transmitted grades (“notes sexuellement transmissibles” in French), and, according to nongovernmental groups and media reports, it happens in both urban and rural areas.[65]

Hawa, 17, who is a member of the young female leaders group in her school in Sédhiou, finds that “relationships” for grades are commonplace in her school. She told Human Rights Watch: “Teachers tell you ‘If you have a relationship with me, I can ensure you will be the best one in the class.’” Hawa’s close friend was sexually harassed by a teacher when they were 15 years old, in the 5eme year of lower secondary school. He offered her better grades and support to help her mother, but Hawa’s friend refused. The same teacher has allegedly also approached two other girls in Hawa’s class.[66]

In four cases, girls told Human Rights Watch they felt teachers graded them badly, ignored them in class or did not let them participate when they turned down their sexual advances.[67]

Aïssatou, 16, from Sédhiou, said:

One day, he [the teacher] asked me to go to his house. When I went to his house, he offered to give me money and resources. And I told him no… because when they tell you that, they’re going to impregnate you and will leave you on your own. I was a bit stressed. It was in his house. He became nasty, [he said] he was not going to give me good grades.[68]

After a series of bad grades, Aïssatou decided to speak to her principal who, in turn spoke to the teacher about the allegations. According to Aïssatou, even though her teacher denied the allegations, the teacher’s advances stopped, and she did not experience any retaliation, after the principal’s intervention. She was not aware of any further disciplinary action against the teacher beyond this discussion. The same teacher sexually exploited at least one other girl including one of her friends: “He ended up impregnating her. The teacher is still there, but he goes out with other girls,” Aïssatou said.[69] She was not aware of disciplinary or judicial sanction taken against him.

Cases of Sexual Exploitation by Teachers

Human Rights Watch documented 10 cases of sexual exploitation and abuses in the context of “relationships” between teachers and students, most of whom were 15 and 16 years old when the abuse took place. Various girls and young women referred to teachers who have had multiple “relationships” with students during their placement at the school.[70] The “relationships” were largely known by teachers and some principals, but disciplinary actions were not taken in most cases.

Fanta, now 23, from a village in Sédhiou region, had “a relationship” with her 30-year-old teacher for nearly two years, which started when she was 16 years old and resulted in a pregnancy that ended her education:

I was in his class … it was always hidden. The teacher had given me an exercise to complete at his house. After that, we were like this [together]. We would meet at his house. Some teachers knew about it, but they said nothing. I felt ashamed in class … my classmates knew I was going out with him. [71]

In a middle school in Sédhiou, at least two girls referred to cases of teachers who had made students pregnant. Aïcha, 15, who is in the final year of middle school, told Human Rights Watch: “We have a lot of problems as girls … there are teachers who approach young girls.” She told Human Rights Watch a teacher had “a relationship” with one of her classmates:

A teacher is in prison because of that … since last year, 2016. He went out with a girl in secret. She was 16 years old. After that, she became pregnant. He has refused to accept that it was him. When the girl had the baby [they] did a DNA test and [they] imprisoned the teacher. The girl's parents brought a claim [against the teacher] … The girl is not at school, she stays at home.[72]

Penda, 17, who studies in the same school in Sédhiou, also told Human Rights Watch her friend had a “relationship” with her mathematics teacher when she was 15 in the 4eme and 3eme year of middle school. Her friend moved to a private school, and the relationship ended there. But according to Penda, the teacher, who lives in her neighborhood, has had “relationships” with other girls in her school, one of whom was 16.[73]

Maïmouna, quoted previously, told Human Rights Watch that her friend, who was 14 at the time, had a secret “relationship” with a teacher. The teacher used to call her and visit her at night. “He used to see her often, during two years. The teacher gave her money, and she used to hide this [the relationship] from her family.”[74]

Relations between teachers and underage students remain unlawful regardless of a student’s age or her consent to engage in sexual relations with a teacher. When a student is under 16, these so-called “relationships” constitute rape under Senegal’s penal law. However, teachers and school officials – all of whom are in a position of authority—could also be found guilty of sexual offenses against a child carrying the maximum penalty of 10 years.[75]

Teachers also engage in “relationships” between students who are older than 18. According to one school principal, teachers who are as young as 22 or 23 during their first placement may have fewer qualms with dating students who are slightly younger than them.[76] Although relationships with students over 18 are not illegal or qualify as a sexual offense against a child under Senegalese law, they may well be unethical and exploitative, and a violation of a teacher’s ethical obligations.

Sexual exploitation occurs when teachers abuse their position to exert undue power on students they teach, influence or appear to have power or control over. This breaches a teachers’ duty of care, and ethical responsibilities toward their students. School officials should not tolerate any instances where teachers or school officials abuse their power for sexual purposes. They should enforce a policy that prohibits “relationships” between teachers and school officials –who exert power and authority—and students in school and outside school.

Unwarranted Sexual Overtones and Inappropriate Behavior in Schools

Teachers’ inappropriate advances or proposals affect the learning environment, and make some female students feel wary about their teachers. Some teachers use inappropriate language or gestures when talking to female students or referring to other students in their class.[77] Some of these acts can constitute the sexual offense of sexual harassment, and are in clear violation of teacher’s ethical obligations.[78]

In the village of Ounck, in rural Ziguinchor, Aïssatou, 16, told Human Rights Watch she felt uncomfortable when her teacher approached her at the beginning of the school year: “He told me, ‘what’s your name? where are you from? I like you a lot.’ I told him ‘I don’t like you. I don’t go out with teachers.”[79] Similarly, Nafissatou, 17, who lives in the neighboring village of Congoly said: “The teachers tell [us] ‘I love you’ often … there are teachers who have relationships to get married, and others to ruin you.”[80]

Soukeyna, now 20, recalled her unwelcome encounter with her teacher in middle school: “One day, he called for me and talked to me about my studies. All of a sudden, he told me he would be happy if I became his third wife.” Although the teacher did not pursue her further, his proposal had a strong impact on Soukeyna’s trust in teachers: “It’s something that really affected me. I was used to having a good relationship with my teachers. Psychologically, it affected me.”[81]

At least three girls reported being smacked on their buttocks.[82] Amy, 14, from Ounck, said that one of their teachers smacked her buttocks with his hand: “Girls don’t say anything… [but] this is not good. We don’t want them to hit us or touch us.”[83]

To avoid a bad experience at school, some girls told Human Rights Watch they “protected” themselves by becoming distant with teachers. Students appeared to feel maintaining appropriate boundaries with their teachers was their own responsibility. Many students said that they did not give teachers opportunities by not “provoking” or “tempting” them.[84] In particular, they avoided going to the teachers’ room, did not search for teachers outside classroom time, and dressed modestly to avoid attracting a teacher’s attention.[85]

In some interviews and group discussions, girls said students’ choice of outfits are to blame for unnecessary attention from teachers.[86] For example, in one group discussion at a middle school in Sédhiou, girls felt that an important way to avoid having problems, was to avoid using any “sexy outfits, [not] show your breasts… so that you [don’t] tell men you are ready.”[87] This type of damaging message, which places the burden and blame on girls for teachers’ actions, is often propagated by teachers, school officials and parents.[88]

Tackling the stereotypes that make girls feel that they are guilty for provoking sexual exploitation and abuses committed against them should be a top priority, according to Ndèye Fatou Faye, a psychologist at the Centre Guidance Infantile et Familiale in Dakar. Faye believes that schools and communities should stop blaming girls for exploitation, focus more on training teachers on their professional responsibilities, on ways to prevent sexual violence, and on how to recognize telling signs that children are suffering sexual abuse.[89]

With a view to ending the culture of silence around school-related sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse, as well as abuses by other peers and adults, the government should support a public education campaign directed at students and young people. The campaign should be developed in consultation with young people, and should cover what constitutes unacceptable behavior by teachers and adults with authority over students, ways to raise concerns and report abuses, and mechanisms to report these confidentially.  

 

IV. Limited Progress on Tackling Sexual Exploitation, Harassment and Abuse in Schools

If girls accuse a teacher [of harassment], and tell the principal, the teacher will deny it. Girls are afraid of denouncing – they [the administration and the teachers] can even destroy our career.
—Penda, 17, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017

Although prosecutions for school-related rape have occurred, Human Rights Watch’s evidence suggests that prosecution or redress for sexual exploitation or harassment has been rare. The reporting system is generally weak, as victims of abuses are reluctant to report cases within schools. Human Rights Watch also found that education officials often do not act on or report to their own supervisors cases of sexual exploitation or harassment that have been brought to their attention.

At the school level, senior school officials do not appear to take action to tackle or prevent all prevalent forms of sexual exploitation—such as inappropriate advances or “relationships” between students and teachers—which in some cases, constitute sexual offenses.

In Senegal, talking about sexual harassment is considered a taboo topic for girls and women alike.[90] In many cases, girls affected do not report sexual abuse. As a result, young survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence, and those affected by exploitation, rarely see their cases to court and perpetrators punished. Girls’ also rarely get access to appropriate health services or the police.[91]

Rape Prosecutions

Since the late 2000’s, the local media has consistently reported the trials of teachers charged with sexual offenses of rape and acts of pedophilia linked to school, prompting widespread concern that students were exposed to school-related sexual violence.[92] Human Rights Watch is concerned about how often these reports reveal the exact identity of young survivors of rape, their location, and the details of the offense.[93] According to Seckou Balde, head of psychiatric health at Kolda’s health centre, the lack of protection of the survivor’s identity and the negative portrayal of survivors in the media deter young survivors from coming forward with cases.[94]

Captions:
(1) “Rape” The general supervisor [name redacted by Human Rights Watch] … accused of rape of a 17-year-old student.
(2) “My teacher asked me to sleep with him, at risk of keeping his French grades” – A young 16-year-old teacher is a victim of rape followed by pregnancy.
(3) Accused of rape, the teacher insists: “the underwear was used as a rag.”

© 2018 Human Rights Watch

Government officials who spoke with Human Rights Watch believe that cases of school-related rape by teachers have diminished overall, due in part to a steady number of prosecutions of teachers, and an increase in child protection mechanisms at the local level.[95] Yet, this might be based on a perception: legal experts and government officials who spoke with Human Rights Watch were only aware of a handful of prosecutions of teachers or school staff for rape.[96]

In Dakar, the local media has reported at least 14 school-related rape trials since 2013, and over 10 in Kolda, Sédhiou, and other parts of the country.[97] Human Rights Watch learned, through interviews, of at least seven prosecutions in Dakar, and the regions of Kolda and Ziguinchor. For example, in Medina Yoro Foulah, the northernmost region in Kolda, a teacher was sentenced to four years imprisonment for raping a 12-year-old student in his office at the school in 2014.[98] In Ziguinchor, a teacher was prosecuted for raping a 16-year-old student in school.[99]

While these prosecutions have sent a signal that rape by teachers is intolerable, sexual exploitation and harassment continue to be serious problems.

Limited Accountability and Action Against Perpetrators of Sexual Exploitation and Harassment

Human Rights Watch evidence suggests that teachers who have sexually exploited students in the context of “relationships” usually do not face serious legal sanction or professional sanction. Their behavior is sometimes tolerated or at most, they are reprimanded or warned by their peers or the principal, with no further consequences. Repeat offenders, such as teachers who sexually exploit more than one student during their tenure at the school, attests to the impunity they appear to enjoy.[100]

In a middle school in Sédhiou, where several students reported experiencing sexual harassment by teachers, a senior teacher told Human Rights Watch that one of his colleagues had “gone out” with three students. The teacher said: “In this school, there are teachers who run towards their students. Last year, there were three girls in this school [targeted by one of the youngest teachers] – one of the girls, her parents were aware, and they complained.” Although the former principal admonished this teacher, he still teaches at the school.[101]

The teacher who abused Fanta and made her pregnant, mentioned in a previous section, continues to teach at the local middle school in a village in the Sédhiou region.[102] Fanta’s father spoke with the principal, but the school did not conduct an investigation.[103]

Hawa Kandé, gender focal point at the education inspectorate in Kolda region, told Human Rights Watch that even though reporting sexual abuse is anonymous, “relationships [between teachers and students] are so commonplace, they [teachers] have trivialized them.”[104]

Several people reported cases of teachers marrying their students including in cases where girls are impregnated by their teachers.[105] In some cases the families negotiated an informal financial settlement to cover the cost of antenatal and health checks for a girl during pregnancy and a basic stipend.[106]

For example, Koumba Ndiaye, a women’s advocate in Medina Yoro Foulah, a small town close to the border with The Gambia, in 2011 mediated the process of a girl who was sexually abused by her teacher, in the context of a “relationship,”: “She was 16. The teacher financed her, [gave her] a mobile phone … once she fell pregnant, her father kicked her out of her house.” Ndiaye described how she negotiated with the teacher so that he would pay the expenses for the birth and baby’s maintenance. As part of this negotiation, Ndiaye demanded that the teacher request a relocation to a different region. Neither Ndiaye nor the girl’s family filed a complaint against the teacher to police.[107]

Community Pressure to Avoid Proceedings

In most small towns and villages where Human Rights Watch conducted research, families frequently resolved cases of rape, sexual exploitation, and violence without involving either the judiciary or school, that is, within their home or community. Often, when parents find out that a girl or young woman is pregnant outside marriage, they prefer to settle conditions with the baby’s father, or arrange a marriage between them.[108] This is commonly referred to as “maslaha” and “jokere endam” meaning “in the common interest” in Wolof and “preserving kinship” or “good neighborhood” in Pulaar language, respectively.[109]

Mariama Barry, a local advocate leading a local women’s brigade to end violence against women in Kolda, told Human Rights Watch: “They [young girls] are really scared to speak about sexual violence … people don’t have a habit of denouncing and talking about their problems.” Barry told Human Rights Watch that many mothers warn their daughters to not talk about any such incidents: “It’s what troubles the community – if you take someone to court, you will be isolated.”[110]

Some communities afford teachers and school officials, who are very often posted from other parts of Senegal, special status, due to their level of education and the role they play in the community. This makes it harder to denounce any acts of exploitation or abuse perpetrated by teachers, and contributes to a culture of silence around unlawful acts that take place in schools.

When Fanta, now 23, first told her parents she was pregnant from her teacher, they expelled her from their house.[111] Fanta told Human Rights Watch she felt ashamed in her class because her classmates knew she had “a relationship” with the teacher, and the teacher denied being her child’s father.[112] Although her parents took her back, Fanta’s father told Human Rights Watch that in the village, “people look at you in a different way … our tradition really bans a girl from getting pregnant [outside marriage].”[113]

According to experts at the Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, who provide psychological support to parents and children, parents are often reluctant to report abuse and exploitation because they worry about their community’s perception. Most parents hardly ever have access to professional services or support to help them handle abuses committed against their children.[114]

School-based Efforts to Tackle Sexual Exploitation, Harassment and Violence

A consistent, national strategy to end all forms of sexual violence in schools–particularly taboo issues like sexual exploitation and harassment—is missing.[115]

Secondary schools visited by Human Rights Watch have generally taken a strong stance against school-related sexual and gender-based violence as a whole, and focused on tackling financial and social barriers faced by girls in secondary school. Human Rights Watch found that this often stems from leadership and self-initiative by principals and committed teachers, rather than a national concerted effort, based on directives or regulations from the government.

National or regional efforts to prevent or reduce sexual abuse and exploitation are often closely linked to campaigns to prevent teenage pregnancies, and those aimed at empowering girls with information and providing essential items, including sanitary pads and school materials, without which many girls would face even more barriers to education.[116] Development partners, including donors and UN agencies, have largely provided financial or technical support through the Ministry of National Education’s “Coordination Framework for Interventions for Girls’ Education.”[117]

At the school level, some principals have focused on adopting a clear zero-tolerance policy toward sexual abuse or exploitation by staff in their school. For example, principal Tacko Koita, in Mpak village in Ziguinchor, regularly reminds her staff about their ethical obligations and warns her deputies and teachers about engaging in inappropriate, if not illegal, behavior with students: “As the principal, I speak to all of my deputies. They need to be warned. The law covers children who are minors. They have to know they have responsibilities. If something happens, they’ve been forewarned.”[118] Nevertheless, in spite of this warning, students who attended this middle school did report some cases of “relationships” and inappropriate behavior by their male teachers.[119]

In a school in Kolda, Lalia Mané, a middle school teacher and a member of the government’s girls’ education initiative, told Human Rights Watch that sexual harassment by teachers stopped after children went through extensive trainings on child rights and violence against children, and an observatory was put in place in the school. Mané said: “I tell my students, if there’s a teacher that asks you for favors … you must go press charges at the police station … I don’t hide it.”[120] Students at this school did not report any inappropriate advances or cases of sexual violence or exploitation during interviews with Human Rights Watch.

Some principals and school officials have also tried to adopt a compulsory school uniform policy to ensure all students are dressed according to standards set by the school administration and the parent teacher association. Unfortunately, this initiative responds to a common perception among school staff that female students’ clothes expose them to exploitation by their teachers.[121]

Dysfunctional Reporting System and Discriminatory Attitude of Principals

Child protection efforts in Senegal have historically been piecemeal, uncoordinated and under-funded.[122] In 2013, the government adopted a comprehensive national child protection strategy, aiming to establish an intricate child protection system that connects all relevant actors at the village, district, regional and national levels.[123] This new system introduced child protection committees, which were set up to bring together a range of education, judicial and local government representatives with NGOs and other actors that provide services to children affected by violence. It also aimed to strengthen coordination to prevent any forms of violence or abuse against children, and to improve reporting of child rights violations, wherever they may occur.[124]

Although the strategy is accompanied by a plan of action, the government has so far not allocated adequate resources to roll-out the strategy uniformly.[125] Human Rights Watch found a gap between this coordination mechanism and reporting at the school level, particularly around cases of sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse.

According to the chief of education inspection in Vélingara, in the Casamance region, guidance for school officials is clear: every three months, school principals must send reports of any cases related to child protection issues–including on sexual and gender-based violence, as well as pregnancies and cases of female genital mutilation—to local education inspectorates.[126] The education inspectorate will in turn, report these within the education system and inform the relevant child protection committee.[127]

In theory, principals are legally obliged to report cases of rape or other criminal incidents, directly to police. They should also report other child rights violations or incidents affecting students to child protection committees. Once a case is reported to a relevant child protection committee, a range of actors, including child protection officers, police, and prosecutors, are involved in the response, which in some cases, requires adopting urgent measures to assist or protect a child.[128]

Human Rights Watch identified three key factors which undermined the consistent reporting of sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse against students by their teachers and other school staff: cultural perceptions that girls and young women are responsible for their teachers’ advances; a concern over losing teachers given the deficient number in especially rural areas; and the lack of clarity on what comprises sexual exploitation.

Barriers to Reporting at the School Level

A principal wants to protect his staff. Teachers can have lots of problems… You have to talk to him so that he stops. [If not], he risks ten years in prison.
—School principal, Kolda region, October 2017

Human Rights Watch found that principals generally wield great influence over whether or not cases of sexual exploitation, harassment, or abuse in schools were reported to police or education inspectorates. Several principals told Human Rights Watch they prefer to address any incidents of exploitation or abuse within school walls in order to protect their staff, and prevent scrutiny from education inspectorates.

School principals and teachers are not immune to the bias nor the community’s approach to dealing with cases of abuse. Part of the problem with reporting is the principal’s bias, as well as a lack of definition of sexual exploitation in school guidelines, and a prevalent culture of blaming girls.

Some principals told Human Rights Watch that they did not report cases because they did not fully trust students’ allegations of sexual misconduct by their staff.[129] Some principals and school staff also talked about students’ volatile adolescent behavior, students’ desire to attract attention, and the way some students “tempted” their teachers by wearing tighter or shorter clothes.[130]

According to a former school principal interviewed in Dakar:

Girls have their periods, they are mature girls. [There are] girls who provoke [their teachers] or teachers who are practically from the same generation as girls … the risk is very big. Girls go see their teachers with the excuse of learning at the teachers’ house.[131]

Yet, several education staff said they are reluctant to report teachers out of concern for losing already limited staff and suffering reputational damage.[132] A school principal in a village in the Kolda region explained:

If a girl has been harassed, we call the teacher. We try to listen to him, and we investigate. We don’t call the departmental committee for child protection … if you call them, the teacher will face problems. We try to solve this amicably. [133]

Human Rights Watch did not find evidence of a specific legal obligation for principals and senior school officials to report criminal sexual offense to the police.

Beyond the principal, many schools have staff members and structures tasked with monitoring and reporting on child protection concerns in schools. Some school staff members are part of local child protection committees, part of the national committee of teachers to promote girls’ education (CNEP-SCOFI), or take part in an informal school observatory made up of students, teachers and school administrative officials to monitor vulnerable students and students at risk of dropping out of school.[134]

Some of the bigger secondary schools visited by Human Rights Watch have a hierarchy in reporting child protection concerns. Education or administrative staff must be informed of a problem first, prior to taking up a complaint or allegation to the principal’s level. In a school with more than 1000 students in Sédhiou, a principal told Human Rights Watch that usually the school supervisors (“surveillants”) or the lead teacher for every grade finds out first, and then assesses whether they need to inform him.[135] This hierarchy could constitute an additional barrier to reporting.

Even when teachers want to report harmful or unlawful behavior, some may feel they cannot for fear of accusing fellow teachers knowing the consequences they may face.[136] A middle school teacher in Kolda region told Human Rights Watch: “We are aware of some violence, but we do not dare denounce it.”[137]

Senior school officials should be obliged to conduct investigations following any allegations of misconduct and, where a criminal law appears to have been violated, refer alleged perpetrators to the police. The Ministry of National Education should issue a directive outlining school officials’ legal duty to report any incidents or allegations.

Principals must also be given comprehensive trainings on how to conduct initial investigations adequately and fairly, and where appropriate or needed due to the type of offense, report cases to higher education authorities, or immediately to the police. Those who fail to do so should be subject to disciplinary proceedings themselves, and if their behavior amounts to an obstruction of justice, criminal prosecution.

Deterrents and Barriers to Reporting Faced by Students

Human Rights Watch found that many students were reluctant to report sexual abuse and exploitation by school staff as a result of their limited understanding of what constitutes a sexual offense and unlawful behavior, unclear reporting system, and barriers to reporting, including the lack of confidentiality.

Many students do not fully understand what sexual offenses are, nor the full extent of avenues to report these offenses whenever they occur. This remains a fundamental problem in identifying the full extent of school-related SGBV. For example, a consultation with over 500 students in Dakar, led by the Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, found that while students understand that rape is a crime and are inclined to report it, they would not recognize sexual touching, harassment, or attempted rape, as sexual abuse.[138] Human Rights Watch found that many students have normalized the reality of “relationships” in the school context, and although many identified it as something that was wrong, they did not perceive it as sexual exploitation. Schools should ensure students have a better understanding of what constitutes sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse so that they can identify and report them.[139]

Girls and young women who have been harassed, exploited or abused by teachers, or other adults, have limited options to confidentially report an incident.

Some students told Human Rights Watch they would not seek help from their principals or teachers because they felt their claims would be dismissed. Some of the girls who spoke to Human Rights Watch about an abuse they suffered or a close friend’s case said they often share their experiences with friends, and take advice from them. Psychologists at the Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale in Dakar told Human Rights Watch that children often do not want to report abuse by an authority figure.[140]

However, there are a number of other obstacles too. In order to report rape at a police station, survivors must present a medical certificate.[141] Reporting a rape thus becomes a financial barrier for some young survivors. Although medical certificates can be obtained for free when attending drop-in support centers, a rape survivor has to pay around 10,000 Francs CFA ($19) in order to obtain one if she does not have a referral.[142]

In urban areas, well-known organizations like the Association des Juristes Sénégalaises, a national organization led by female lawyers, or the International Planned Parenthood’s Senegal chapter, the Association pour le Bien-Etre Familial (ASBEF), support survivors with access to judicial services and assistance. Children can also go to the Ministry of Justice’s child-focused legal assistance agency, the AEMO, which supports children through judicial processes.[143]

To ensure students actually report any incidents, the government needs to also tackle the stereotypes that make girls feel that they are responsible for sexual exploitation and abuse committed against them. In addition to providing trainings and workshops for teachers and students, the government should also embed gender issues in its long over-due curriculum on sexual and reproductive health education. The government should make reporting more accessible and confidential for all students –whether in the form of a trained designated teacher who lodges complaints confidentially, or a confidential reporting line into the relevant child protection committee.

Problems with Inspectorates and Child Protection Committees

Members of child protection committees in Ziguinchor and Vélingara consulted by Human Rights Watch lacked exact numbers of convictions of teachers for sexual abuse or of how many school-related cases have been reported to the committees.[144]

Within the education system, data gathering depends on what schools report to local or regional inspectorates, and what inspectorates do with that information. For example, the regional education inspectorate in Kolda had not compiled data on sexual and gender-based violence and exploitation in schools for the whole region.[145] At the sub-regional level, some data existed: In Vélingara, the head of inspection for this eastern region of Kolda, told Human Rights Watch he received 62 complaints or allegations of teenage pregnancies, and some cases of sexual harassment, during the 2016-2017 academic year, by students and adults who targeted girls close to school, or while they were on their way to school.[146] This inspector noted that when schools report abuse to local inspectorates, they do not always provide details of the perpetrator’s profile.[147]

Senior school officials also encounter problems with some inspectorates. In one case, a middle school principal in the outskirts of the town of Kolda told Human Rights Watch he had been let down by inspectors: “If there is a problem, you have to inform the next level. But that’s where things are hidden … they are the ones who don’t report this at the level of the inspectorate.”[148] The principal filed a letter of complaint for sexual abuses committed against a student on the way to school, but the letter never went through the system:

I don’t work with the inspectors. If I have a problem, I’ll work it out. They are scared … its complicity. There is no follow-up [of a case]. If there’s someone who is destroying a child, I can’t let him destroy her.”[149]

The reporting system also suffers from a shortage in human resources. For example, the sub-region of Medina Yoro Foulah, in northern Kolda, has 13 middle schools, 2 high schools and 200 public schools. Yet, only one regional education officer oversees all education issues and content in this large region, including allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, drop-outs due to child marriage, and other barriers to girls’ education.[150]

These challenges affect the government’s ability to assess whether its child protection mechanism is working effectively. It also affects the accuracy of national data on the prevalence of school-related sexual and gender-based violence. All government actors should be reminded of their obligation to report any incidents affecting students. Education inspectorates should submit timely reports on cases of sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse, as well as other child rights violations, to relevant child protection committees and the Ministry of National Education.

 

Lack of Adequately Trained Teachers and Female Teachers

Senior teachers and child protection experts who spoke to Human Rights Watch blamed the lack of thorough training of new graduates for teachers’ professional misconduct.[151] The government has indeed, over nearly two decades, recruited non-qualified teachers, many of whom by-passed teacher training.[152]

According to a report of the United States aid agency’s program on safety in middle schools in Senegal in 2010, around 60 percent of middle school teachers are young men, and almost half have no pre-service training, including on counseling, on the code of conduct or on school-related sexual and gender-based violence.[153]

The government recognizes that teacher training urgently needs to focus on ethics and deontology and has criticized what it terms “the decay” in the education system.[154] The government specifies the importance of training teachers on issues related to gender, gender-based violence, HIV and sexually-transmitted diseases, but does not specify trainings on school-related child protection issues.[155] The government’s Project to Support Girls’ Education has reportedly strengthened training for all education actors on gender, including those analyzing teacher manuals to ensure they do not reinforce gender stereotypes, but does not appear to focus on sexual and gender-based violence and exploitation in schools.[156]

Saourou Sené, secretary general of one of the largest secondary teacher unions confirmed: “We have teachers who are very young and are not well trained. There are temporary teachers and those who should not be teaching … more should be done … [such as] training by the government, so that they are conscious of children’s vulnerability … we have to be models of integrity.”[157] According to Sené, the Ministry of National Education has so far not convened all teachers and unions to discuss child protection concerns in schools.[158]

Although female teachers are expected to be role models for girls, and to act as counsellors, there are not many in the secondary education system: in 2015, Senegal had 5,564 female teachers, compared with 22,165 male teachers.[159] Most female teachers tend to be based in predominantly urban areas.[160] They are not trained to be counsellors, unless they specialize in university.[161] In many rural areas, the teaching staff is made up of male teachers only.

According to education officials, part of the problem is that it is hard to attract qualified female teachers to more remote areas, as this would involve moving their families to an area with very limited services. Although the Ministry of National Education’s Human Resources guidelines prescribe a 10 percent quota of posts reserved for women in leadership positions, as well as a “gender bonus” to promote women’s access to roles with greater responsibility, the uptake remains low.[162]

To tackle sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse within the teaching profession, there is an urgent need to ensure that all teachers and school staff—whether they have been in education for a long-time, or they are the newest cohorts of teachers—undergo thorough training on sexual and gender-based violence in school. This training should equip teachers and school staff with tools to reduce students’ risk of exposure to sexual exploitation, harassment and unwanted sexual overtones, and build knowledge about the consequences of perpetrating or failing to report cases.

 

V. Lack of Sexual and Reproductive Health Education and Services

My mom would say, if you have your period, and you say hi to a boy, you’re going to get pregnant.
—Amina, 21, Guinau Rails, Dakar, August 15, 2017

In Senegal, many young people do not have adequate access to information and services on sexuality and reproduction. Knowledge of sexual and reproductive health remains low among Senegalese youth because most public secondary schools do not provide adequate and comprehensive content on sexuality or reproduction, which should include a focus on prevention of gender-based and sexual violence, and healthy sexual relationships.[163] Yet, progress toward adopting a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health curriculum has been needlessly slow, according to national and international experts.

Limited Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Education in Schools

They [the Ministry of National Education] told us that we will have a reproductive health subject … we’ve been waiting until now. We have to introduce the program in the 6eme class [the first grade of middle school]. They [girls] do not know that when they have relationships they can fall pregnant … they think their age is what determines a pregnancy.
—Principal of a middle school, Kolda, October 26, 2017

Human Rights Watch found that teachers do not always give scientifically-backed information on contraceptive methods. In particular, students are not taught about sexuality or the importance of full consent in relationships. One reason for this is absence of an adequate, robust and comprehensive curriculum on both sexual and reproductive health education (SRHE) that is considered a compulsory part of the national curriculum. Teachers also lack accompanying guidelines to teach the subject. As a result, schools and teachers can design lessons or workshops on reproduction or contraception themselves, based on their own opinions of these topics.

At time of writing, students were only taught some aspects of reproductive health in 3eme and 4eme, the last two years of middle school, through sub-topics covered in science class. A science class typically covers topics related to the human body, including the reproductive system, children’s developmental processes, including changes in adolescence, puberty, and menstruation. These classes also cover core aspects of the human life cycle, including reproduction.

Many schools also offer non-compulsory classes reproductive education and “life skills” or have permanent youth-focused clubs known as EVF clubs, or clubs for education for family life.[164] These clubs are often managed by science teachers who organize discussions about menstruation, and issues affecting youth, including drug addiction, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, and teenage pregnancy.[165] The content of these classes depends on the school’s wish to focus on these topics, although schools receive suggested topics from national organizations.[166]

It also depends on who leads the club. In a middle school in Sédhiou, the rate of teenage pregnancies went down when an active female teacher led the school’s EVF club, according to the school’s principal. However, when the teacher was replaced with a male teacher, female students stopped talking to the teacher about reproduction.[167]

Abstinence is the leading message in many schools, particularly in the EVF clubs.[168] Education staff and resource people who teach in schools still largely focus the content of their discussions on abstinence and virginity prior to marriage.[169] Meta, 15, who coordinates her school’s EVF club told Human Rights Watch that she has been taught that “the best thing is to “keep one’s treasure” [virginity] until marriage.”[170]

Global scientific, sociological and human rights evidence shows that an abstinence-only curriculum leads to no visible change in adolescent sexual behaviors.[171] A heavy focus on abstinence also isolates and humiliates many adolescents who have already had sex, and who may need adequate advice to ensure they are safe and protected from abuse or from HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.[172]

In the village of Ndorna, in Kolda region, for example, school staff often ask the local midwife to conduct sessions about reproduction with girls in the village’s only secondary school. The midwife often focuses her sessions with girls on the importance of preserving their virginity for marriage.[173] Yet, Ndorna has very high rates of teenage pregnancy – most as a result of child marriage, while others are linked to sexual relationships outside marriage. According to a health volunteer, focusing on virginity only sends the wrong message that girls who have had sexual relationships, some of whom have been sexually abused, are told that they are unworthy.[174]

In Vélingara, a town with the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and child marriage in Kolda region,[175] students in one of the middle schools told Human Rights Watch that their science teacher has taught them that only women who are married should use contraceptive methods. Girls are also taught that if they take the pill they will reduce their chances of ever having children once they are married.[176] The school does not promote contraceptives.[177] In one case, a student told Human Rights Watch contraceptive methods can kill babies.[178] Human Rights Watch heard similar responses from girls in other towns.

The government of Senegal has engaged in various processes to adopt a reproductive health and family planning module in the official curriculum.[179] But so far, the Ministry of National Education has excluded topics related to adolescent sexuality.[180] The ministry’s reluctance seems to stem from a concern that teaching sexuality contradicts Senegal’s cultural and moral values, as well as pressure from religious groups.[181]

A recent study of the government’s approach to reproductive health education shows that the government has omitted topics such as intimate relationships, sexual abuse, as well as comprehensive information about the sexual transmission of HIV, and communication skills to avoid sexual coercion and abuse.[182]

According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, an important response to sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancies is to institute a mandatory, age appropriate curriculum on comprehensive sexuality and reproductive health education. To be effective, the curriculum should include sexual and reproductive health and rights, responsible sexual behavior, prevention of early pregnancy and prevention of sexually transmitted infections, consensual and healthy relationships, and gender equality.[183] International technical guidance by UN agencies shows that in order to be effective, children should be introduced to age-appropriate content on sexuality and reproductive health in primary school, prior to puberty.[184]

The government should adhere to its international and regional commitment and obligation to provide a comprehensive SRHE curriculum. Schools should play a key role in providing students with the information and tools to understand changes in adolescence, sexuality, and reproduction, and provide information that enables them to make informed decisions, without the pressure, stereotypes, or myths shared by their friends or communities.

Limited Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in the Community

We have to remove the taboo between young people and talk to them about sexual relationships. We sensitize young people, and they speak, but not in front of someone who is older.
—Abdul Aziz Fall, Association Protégeons L’Enfant, Dakar, June 2017

Many young Senegalese do not have adequate knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health rights.[185] Without adequate information, young people are at risk of pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Those who are already exposed to multiple forms of violence in their daily lives, are also at risk of engaging in exploitative or coercive sexual relationships.[186] Yet, their options to get good information within the community are very limited.

Fathy, a 22-year-old student whose child is two years old, told Human Rights Watch:

It tires me that we don’t have advice about sexual intercourse. There are families where parents do not talk [with their children]. We’re missing resources for our basic needs … it’s because of that that girls fall pregnant.[187]

Most of the adolescents that Human Rights Watch interviewed said it is unthinkable to ask parents for advice on relationships or sex. Khady, 25, told Human Rights Watch: “With my mom, I don’t talk about sex or child marriage … she even uses the TV or theatre to talk to us indirectly.”[188]

Child protection and adolescent health specialists interviewed by Human Rights Watch felt that the lack of communication between parents and children means many children seek information elsewhere, including misleading or wrong information from the internet or their peers.[189] It also makes children feel that they cannot talk to their parents when someone has abused them.[190]

Most students interviewed who lived in larger towns or cities told Human Rights Watch they resort to advice centers for adolescents for impartial information, confidential discussions and advice. These centers, or CCA in French, are financed by the UN Population Fund and managed by the Ministry of Youth’s division for adolescent health. However, many teenagers do not have easy access to the centers – there are only 15 government centers in 11 regions, and all are located in provincial capitals, and Dakar.[191]

According to the government, the centers aim to “promote adolescent and young people’s reproductive health … to change attitudes and behaviors for a responsible adult life.”[192] The centers aim to overcome social and cultural barriers and taboos around adolescent health and provide adolescents with confidential information, resources and preventive services on various issues, including contraception, teenage pregnancies, drugs, and protection from HIV and sexually transmitted infections.[193]

To its credit, the government has adopted a law on reproductive health, and various national strategies and action plans on adolescent reproductive health. These plans respond to an urgent need to increase access and uptake of adolescent-friendly services focused on sexual health and contraception in order to contain and reduce the high rates of HIV infection among young people, tackle the high rates of teenage pregnancy, and reduce maternal and infant mortality. [194]

Human Rights Watch visited three CCA, in Kolda, Sédhiou and Ziguinchor. Although they provide a crucial service for young people, these centers face many issues: most are staffed by men, who are mainly unpaid volunteers that do not get adequate training. They also lack full-time social or health workers, and equipment or resources to conduct STI or HIV tests. All three were housed in derelict buildings that lacked electricity at times.

Despite these circumstances, Human Rights Watch met adolescent health volunteers who dedicated their time to speaking to adolescents, visited communities to talk about adolescent health, and provided confidential advice to adolescents who access the centers. Some young people also told Human Rights Watch that they do not go to hospitals or local clinics to seek advice for fear of being stigmatized by health personnel who most often know them or their parents.

Youth groups working on adolescent reproductive health acknowledge the overall efforts on adolescent health, but expressed concern that most information services target a predominantly urban population. The government, in partnership with the UN Population Fund and other agencies, has set up a hotline, as well as a text message service where adolescents can get instant information on topics as varied as menstruation, the use of condoms or how to stay protected from HIV/AIDS. The general population can also obtain information from hotlines managed by Marie Stopes International or ASBEF, the International Parent Planthood Foundation’s chapter in Senegal.

According to Ousmane Diouf, who coordinates the National Alliance for Youth for Reproductive Health and Family Planning, most of these initiatives do not target young people in rural areas, where most teenage pregnancies occur and where young people are frequently isolated from information and confidential services.[195]

In 2016, the government launched a project to end school-related teenage pregnancies in the regions of Guédiawaye, Fatick, and Kolda. This project aims to build parents’, and school staff’ capacity and knowledge around violence, adolescence and development, among other topics.[196]

VI. Senegal’s International Legal Obligations

Senegal is a party to all core international and regional treaties that protect girls’ and women’s human rights, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the “Maputo Protocol”).[197]

Senegal has not adopted a Children’s Code to bring the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child into national law.

The Right to Education

Under international and regional human rights law, all persons have a right to free, compulsory, primary education, free from discrimination.[198] All persons also have the right to secondary education, which includes “the completion of basic education and consolidation of the foundations for life-long learning and human development.”[199] State Parties have to ensure that different forms of secondary education are generally available and accessible, take concrete steps towards achieving free secondary education, and take additional steps to increase availability such as the provision of financial assistance for those in need.[200]

Senegal’s 2004 law on education states that compulsory education shall be free from 6 to 16 years of age. In 2018, Human Rights Watch called on the government of Senegal to ensure secondary education is fully free in practice.[201]

African regional human rights standards also set out specific measures to protect women and girls’ education. The Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa specifically places obligations on governments to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, guarantee them equal opportunity and access to education and training, and protect women and girls from all forms of abuse, including sexual harassment in schools.[202] The African Youth Charter–ratified by Senegal in 2009–includes an obligation to ensure girls and young women who become pregnant or married before completing their education have an opportunity to continue their education.[203]

Protection from Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out an obligation of governments to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse.[204] States should take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures to protect children from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment, or exploitation, including sexual exploitation, harassment and other forms of abuse.[205]

The Maputo Protocol calls on states to adopt legislative, administrative, social, and economic measures as may be necessary to identify the causes and consequences of all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual violence whether it occurs in private or public, and to ensure their prevention, punishment, and eradication.[206] This treaty also calls on states to protect women and girls from all forms of abuse, including school-related sexual harassment, and ensure perpetrators are sanctioned.[207] Survivors of sexual abuse and harassment should get access to counselling and rehabilitation services.[208]

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has called on states to adopt and enforce law, policies and procedures to prohibit and tackle school-related violence against girls and women. They should explicitly prohibit verbal and emotional abuse, stalking, sexual harassment and sexual violence, physical violence and exploitation.[209] In 2011, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child urged all African states to adopt measures to eliminate violence in schools.[210]

Protection from Child Marriage

The African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child have taken a clear position on 18 as the minimum age for marriage, regardless of parental consent.[211] The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child states that, “Child marriage and the betrothal of girls and boys shall be prohibited.”[212] This Charter explicitly requires governments to take effective action, including legislation, to specify the minimum age of marriage as 18 years.[213]

Child marriage is still legal in Senegal. Senegal’s Family Code permits girls to get married from age 16, while boys need to be 18 to get married.[214] The Penal Code tacitly permits child marriages “celebrated according to custom” by only criminalizing sexual acts or intent to have sexual acts with girls younger than 13 in the context of a marriage.[215]

In 2016, Senegal launched the African Union’s campaign to end child marriage.[216] As part of this campaign, the government committed to raise the age of marriage for girls to 18.[217] At time of writing, the government had not reformed its marriage law, in line with its international and regional obligations.

In 2016, the Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed its concern about the slow progress in the abandonment of child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). The Committee called on the government to criminalize the failure to report FGM, adopt its plan of action to end child marriage, and establish protective mechanisms and adequate services to safeguard girls affected.[218]

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

Under the Maputo Protocol, women and girls have the right to choose any method of contraception, the right to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, and the right to family planning education. States have obligations to “provide adequate, affordable and accessible health services, including information, education and communication programmes … especially … in rural areas.”[219]

Unequal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services amounts to discrimination, according to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.[220] The Committee has recommended that states adopt age-appropriate, comprehensive and inclusive sexual and reproductive health education (SRHE), in their compulsory school curriculum. SHRE should be based on scientific and human rights standards, and be developed in consultation with adolescents.[221]

In 2005, Senegal adopted a law on reproductive health that defines the right to reproductive health as a fundamental and universal right. It guarantees equal access to reproductive services, free from discrimination based on age or civil status, as well as the right to information and adequate education on reproductive health.[222]

 

Recommendations

Adopt Stronger Measures to End School-Related Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Abuse

Ministry of National Education

  • Ensure the Minister of National Education, and teachers’ union representatives, issue directives to schools and teachers explicitly prohibiting sexual relations between teachers and students, outlining unacceptable and unlawful conduct, and promoting teachers’ professional responsibilities to tackle and prevent any form of school-related sexual and gender -based violence.
  • Adopt a national education policy against sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse, that includes: guidance on what constitutes or could lead up to these abuses, procedures to be adopted when cases are reported to school staff, clear school-based enforcement mechanisms and sanctions, and referrals to police.
  • Ensure all schools abide by the national policy on sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse, and ensure teachers are trained on the procedures.
  • In consultation with education actors and teachers, including teachers’ unions, adopt a new nationwide binding professional code of conduct for teachers and school officials that is displayed in all schools.
  • Ensure that legislation relating to school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse, particularly provisions in the Penal Code, are rigorously enforced, and that perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice and punished with sanctions that are commensurate to their crimes.
  • Commission an independent research study to enable the government to understand how widespread sexual violence, including exploitation, harassment and abuse, is in the education system.

Investigate All Allegations of School-Related Sexual Exploitation, Harassment and Abuse

Ministry of National Education

  • Establish clear mechanisms, procedures and guidelines to reinforce the mandatory nature of reporting of any cases of sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse of students.
  • Adequately respond to cases of sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse against students in educational institutions by ensuring that:
    • All schools have functioning confidential and independent reporting mechanisms appropriate to the local school context. These could involve a trained counsellor or designated teacher at a minimum, or a reporting mechanism or telephone hotline system set-up to refer complaints directly to a designated member of the relevant child protection committee.
    • Students affected are promptly referred to external services for health, psychological support and contraceptive needs.
    • Senior school officials conduct investigations following any allegations of misconduct, and where a law is violated, refer alleged perpetrators to the police.
    • Perpetrators of sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse are suspended from any position of authority affecting the complainant or the investigation during investigations, and if there is sufficient evidence, prosecuted, in line with international fair trial standards, or dealt with through the government’s disciplinary process for civil servants.
  • Ensure principals require all school staff to report to them any suspected incidents of sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse, and hold school staff and teachers to account when they do not effectively report, refer or address such cases.
  • Ensure education inspectorates submit timely reports on cases of sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse, as well as other child rights violations, to relevant child protection committees and the Ministry of National Education.
  • Ensure principals and school staff have confidential avenues to report malpractice in education inspectorates.
  • Hold senior school officials and local inspectorates to account when they fail to report allegations of sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse.

Urgently Tackle Barriers that Impede Girls’ Education

Ministry of National Education

  • Ensure secondary education is fully free by removing tuition fees and indirect costs charged by schools.
  • Ensure national education sector planning includes explicit measures to remove barriers to girls’ education, including school-based responses to sexual and gender-based violence, and child protection issues like child marriage and female genital mutilation. Ensure all programs include analysis of school-related sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse.
  • With international financial and technical support:
    • Allocate adequate funding to scale-up existing projects that focus on improving the quality of education and retention of girls in secondary education, which should include programs on adequate and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education.
    • Ensure the national child protection strategy is adequately funded to guarantee child protection committees are active and well-resourced at all levels, particularly increasing coverage in rural areas.
  • Ensure local administrations and mayors allocate adequate funding for programs targeting girls and women in their jurisdictions, particularly to build adequate school infrastructure, to support local awareness campaigns, particularly youth-led campaigns and projects.
  • Provide regional education departments with resources to organize local awareness raising campaigns to end the culture of silence around school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse.

Provide Adequate Training for Education Staff and Teacher Placement

Ministry of National Education

  • Implement mandatory pre-service teacher training on existing laws on sexual offenses, and the new national school policy against sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse, child rights, and the national child protection strategy. All new teachers, school leadership and administrative staff should be trained before their first placement.
  • Adopt and roll-out a focused in-service training on sexual and gender-based violence in schools, starting with heads of school, senior school staff and teachers, and school inspectors. Ensure the training equips teachers and school staff with strategies to reduce students’ risk of exposure to sexual exploitation and harassment and build knowledge about the consequences of perpetrating or failing to report cases.
  • Recruit, train and place more female teachers and administrators in schools where the school faculty is predominantly male, focusing on teacher placement in rural areas. Prohibit and address discrimination, including indirect discrimination, on gender grounds in the hiring, retention and promotion of teachers and school administrators.
  • Design and implement a national in-service training program to train existing teachers to become counsellors in schools.
  • Train teachers on how to recognize students who are affected or distressed due to school-related sexual abuse, coercion or exploitation, and how to act on such cases.
  • Provide regular remote or in-person training for teachers involved in Education Pour La Vie Familiale (EVF) clubs, ensuring they are trained to provide scientifically accurate and age-appropriate information on reproduction, contraception and sexuality.

Adopt a Strong Curriculum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Ministry of National Education, with Ministry of Health and Social Action

  • Ensure the curriculum on reproductive health education complies with international standards, and ensure that the national curriculum:
    • Expands to include comprehensive information on sexuality and reproductive health, including information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, responsible sexual behavior, prevention of early pregnancy, HIV and sexually transmitted infections;
    • Is mandatory, age-appropriate, and scientifically accurate;
    • Is applicable and appropriate for teaching in primary school;
    •  Responds to young people’s needs, and is informed by young people through regular consultations.
  • Ensure the information distributed in school clubs, particularly in EVF clubs, is based on scientifically accurate information about reproduction, contraception and sexuality.

Ensure Young People Have Access to Appropriate Youth-Friendly Sexual and Reproductive Health Services

Ministry of National Education, with Ministry of Family, Women and Gender

  • Involve students and young people in local awareness raising campaigns to end the culture of silence around school-related sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse, as well as abuses by drivers, military and other adults who exploit children in schools or school-related activities.
  • As part of local campaigns, schools should ensure students have the knowledge and tools they need to question and challenge violence and gender discrimination, and to understand what constitutes sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse so that they can identify and report them.
  • Provide support to schools to organize awareness campaigns and regular trainings for students on child protection, child rights and ways to tackle gender stereotypes and discrimination.
  • Take measures to support married and pregnant students so that they can remain or re-enrol in school and are not discriminated against.

Ministry of Health and Social Action and Ministry of Youth, Employment and Citizen Building

  • Ensure advice centers for adolescents (CCA) are adequately resourced and staffed so that they can provide a quality service for young people who require information and guidance on sexuality and reproduction. To increase coverage for more adolescents, ensure advice centers have regular outreach programs or one-stop shops in rural and remote areas.
  • Ensure health centers do not stigmatize adolescents who are sexually active, and that they are staffed with medical personnel qualified to provide confidential and comprehensive adolescent health services.
  • Expand access to free legal services and psychosocial support in rural areas, by working with, and financially supporting, national civil society organizations that provide these professional services.

Amend and/or Adopt Laws to Strengthen Protection for Children Affected by Abuses

National Assembly of Senegal

  • Amend the Penal Code to:
    • Include a provision that specifies the minimum age of consent to sexual activity, equal for all children, in accordance with international human rights norms and best practice.
    • Include a specific criminal offense for an adult who has sexual relations with children under the minimum age of consent.
  • Promptly table and adopt the draft Children’s Code, including articles to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 for boys and girls.
  • Amend article 111 of the Family Code and article 300 of the Penal Code in order to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 for both boys and girls, and take all necessary measures to eliminate child marriages.

Acknowledgments

This report was researched and written by Elin Martínez, researcher in the Children’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch; with additional research by Juliane Kippenberg, Children’s Rights associate director. Beya Rivers, Elena Bagnera and Aurélie Edjidjimo Mabua, Children’s Rights interns, provided research assistance.

This report was edited by Juliane Kippenberg. Clive Baldwin, senior legal advisor, and Babatunde Olugboji, deputy program director, provided legal and program reviews. Corinne Dufka, West Africa director, and Agnes Odhiambo, Women’s Rights senior researcher, provided expert reviews. Production assistance was provided by Alex Firth, Children’s Rights associate; and Fitzroy Hepkins, administrative manager. The French version of this report was translated by Danielle Serres; vetting was done by Peter Huvos.

Human Rights Watch is grateful to all the children, young adults, parents, teachers, school principals, education officials, education, child protection and women’s rights advocates, health workers, and experts who shared their experiences and provided expert input.

We would like to thank the many organizations, experts, and activists who assisted us in conducting the research for this report, and shared data and program information with us.

We are particularly grateful to Bocar Diallo; Maricou Nené and members of Youth Women for Action (YWA) Sénégal; Amy Sekou and Nafissatou Seck of the Association des Juristes Senegalaises; Ousmane Diouf and members of the Alliance Nationale des Jeunes Pour la Santé de la Réproduction et la Planification Familiale; Cheikh Barro, Cherif Abdoulaye Sarr and members of the Association des Jeunes Leaders pour le Developpement; Cheikh Mbow and Marie Elisabeth Massaly of COSYDEP; René Sibomana, Everienne Ndirabika, Georgette Barboza, Awa Guy Lo and staff of the Association Jeunes et Environnement; Thierno Diallo of the Coalition National Education Pour Tous; Saorou Sené of the Syndicat Autonome des Enseignants Moyen et Secondaire; Alassane Diop of Plan International Senegal; Abdou Aziz Fall of the Association Protegeons l’Enfant Senegal; Ndèye Fatou Faye of Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale de Dakar (CEGID); Tidiane Sidibé and Samboudiang Kambaye, from the Centre de Conseils d’Adolescents in Sédhiou and Ziguinchor; Laura D’Elsa and Ruhiyyeh Banister, formerly with the Peace Corps; Molly Melching of TOSTAN; Victorine Djitrinou, Nathaly Soumahoro and Zakaria Sambakhe of Actional Aid International; Xavier Hospital of UNESCO; Matthias Lansard of UNICEF Senegal and Jennifer Hofmann, formerly with UNICEF’s West and Central Africa regional office; Andrea Wojnar-Diagne, formerly with the UN Population Fund Senegal; Sujata Bordoloi of the UN Girls’ Education Initiative; Yona Nestel of Plan International; and Lauren Seibert, former West Africa coordinator at Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch acknowledges the cooperation and input from government officials in the Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Health and Social Action, the Ministry of Youth, Employment and Citizen Building, and the Ministry of Justice.

 

 

[1] Adolescence is also used to refer to the particular period in human growth and development that occurs after childhood and before adulthood. World Health Organization, “Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health: Adolescent development,” undated, http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/topics/adolescence/dev/en/ (accessed February 6, 2018).

[2] Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Sexual and gender-based violence in the context of transitional justice,” October 2014, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/OnePagers/Sexual_and_ge... (accessed April 4, 2018).

[3] World Health Organization, “Violence against women fact sheet,” November 2016, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en (accessed April 4, 2018).

[4] World Health Organization, “Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Prevention and Response, Policy and procedures,” March 2017, http://www.who.int/about/ethics/sexual-exploitation_abuse-prevention_res... (accessed December 11, 2017).

[5] Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Women in Senegal: Breaking the chains of silence and inequality,” April 17, 2015, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15857&L... (accessed February 9, 2018); Enquete Plus, “Violences basées sur le genre: Des statistiques inquiétantes,” (SeneWeb), January 29, 2018, http://seneweb.com/news/Societe/violences-basees-sur-le-genre-des-statis... (accessed February 9, 2018); Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice on its mission to Senegal,” A/HRC/32/44/Add.1, April 7, 2016, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/070/93/PDF/G1607093.pd... (accessed February 9, 2018), p. 7.

[6] Ministére de l’Education Nationale, “Rapport National d’Evaluation de l’Education Pour Tous (EPT) Sénégal,” 2015, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002316/231652f.pdf (accessed February 9, 2018), p. 31.

[7] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Concluding observations on the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Senegal,” CRC/C/SEN/CO/3-5, March 7, 2016, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/044/22/PDF/G1604422.pd... (accessed February 14, 2018). p. 11 - 12.

[8] For example, ONU Senegal, “Lancement officiel de la campagne HeforShe, par le Président de la République du Sénégal, Macky Sall,” March 8, 2018, http://www.onusenegal.org/Lancement-officiel-de-la-campagne-HEFORSHE-par... (accessed August 22, 2018) ; Ministère de l’Education, “Elaboration d’un cadre de coordination des interventions sur l’éducation des filles,” December 2006, http://www.education.gouv.sn/root-fr/upload_pieces/elaboration.pdf (accessed February 9, 2018).

[9] Ibid., p. 17 – 18.

[10] Ministère de l’Education, “Plan de developpement pour l’Education des Filles au Sénégal (2009 – 2011),” December 2008, http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/sites/planipolis/files/ressources/senegal_plan_developpement_education_filles_2009-2011.pdf (accessed September 19, 2018), p. 8.

[11] Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Elaboration d’un cadre de coordination des interventions sur l’éducation des filles ;” Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Rapport National d’Evaluation de l’Education Pour Tous (EPT) Sénégal,” 2015, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002316/231652f.pdf (accessed July 16, 2018), pp. 24 – 28.

[12] These include the Italian-backed “Program d’Appui pour l’Education des Filles,” the United States’ “Education, Priorité, Qualité” and its project “Promoting Safe Middle Schools in Senegal.” Agenzia Italiana per la Cooperazione Allo Sviluppo, “Cartographie des projets de la Coopération Italienne au Sénégal – PAEF Plus,” http://www.coopitasen.org/spip.php?rubrique2 (accessed February 14, 2018); USAID, “Promoting safe middle schools in Senegal,” 2010, http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pnaea258.pdf (accessed February 14, 2018).

[13] United Nations, “Sustainable Development Goals,” https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org (accessed February 16, 2018).

[14] Girls Not Brides, “Senegal Launches African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage,” June 23, 2016, https://www.fillespasepouses.org/senegal-launches-african-union-campaign... (accessed February 5, 2018).

[15] African Union, “Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa: Call to Action,” May 2014, https://au.int/sites/default/files/pages/32905-file-campaign_to_end_chil... (accessed June 20, 2018).

[16] République du Sénégal, “Loi 2004-37 du 15 Décembre 2004 modifiant et complétant la loi d’orientation de l’Education nationale n. 91-22 du 16 Février 1991,” http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/SERIAL/75283/78245/F1277535961/SEN-75... (accessed February 9, 2018), art. 3 bis.

[17] See Human Rights Watch, “Open Letter for President Macky Sall on Free Secondary Education in Senegal,” January 25, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/25/open-letter-president-macky-sall-free-secondary-education-senegal.

[18] Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar and UNICEF, “Etude Orlecol - Synthèse analytique, Les enfants hors ou en marge du système scolaire classique au Sénégal,” 2016, http://horizon.documentation.ird.fr/exl-doc/pleins_textes/divers17-03/01... (accessed February 9, 2018), pp. 11, 14, 32 and 35.

[19] UNICEF, “Statistiques – Senegal,” https://www.unicef.org/french/infobycountry/senegal_statistics.html#117 (accessed February 9, 2018). While girls often drop out of school due to early marriage, teenage pregnancy, or parents’ preference for boys, many boys also drop out of school, often to work or due to the cost of secondary education.

[20] République du Sénégal, Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Rapport National d’Evaluation de l’Education Pour Tous (EPT) Sénégal,” p. 16.

[21] Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar and UNICEF, “Etude Orlecol,” p. 37. Human Rights Watch was not able to find girls with reported disabilities in schools it visited. The very few who access secondary education are placed in special schools in or around Dakar and Thiès. Human Rights Watch interview with Francesca Piatta, Quality – Inclusion coordinator, Handicap International Senegal, Dakar, June 15, 2018.

[22] UNICEF, Unicef Data: Monitoring the Situation of Children and Women, “Child Protection – Child Marriage,” https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/child-marriage/, 2017, (accessed February 9, 2018); Girls not Brides, “Senegal,” https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/senegal/ (accessed February 9, 2018).

[23] Senegal’s Criminal Code criminalizes marriage with a child under the age of 13, but its marriage law permits marriage for girls from age 16.

[24] République du Sénégal, Ministère de la Santé et de l’Action Sociale, “Plan Stratégique de Santé Sexuelle et de la Reproduction des Adolescents/Jeunes au Sénégal [2014-2018],” September 2014, https://www.prb.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Plan-Strate%CC%81gique-de-Sante%CC%81-Sexuelle-et-de-la-Reproduction-des-AdolescentesJeunes-au-Se%CC%81ne%CC%81gal-2014-2018.pdf (accessed February 9, 2018), p. 17.

[25] UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Sénégal : Etude sur les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire,” June 2015, http://senegal.unfpa.org/fr/publications/s%C3%A9n%C3%A9gal-etude-sur-les... (accessed February 9, 2018).

[26] UN Population Fund, “World Population Dashboard – Senegal,” undated, https://www.unfpa.org/data/world-population/SN (accessed February 9, 2018).

[27] Guttmacher Institute, “Abortion in Senegal,” April 2015, https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/abortion-senegal (accessed June 21, 2018).

[28] Ibid.; Sedgh et al., “Estimates of the incidence of induced abortion and consequences of unsafe abortion in Senegal,” 2015, 41 International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, March 2015, https://www.guttmacher.org/journals/ipsrh/2015/03/estimates-incidence-in... (accessed June 21, 2018).

[29] UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Sénégal: Etude sur les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire,” p. 7; Le quotidien, “1971 cas de grossesses en milieu scolaire: Les élevés victimes des élèves,” August 24, 2016, http://www.sen360.com/news/amp/553744 (accessed February 14, 2018).

[30] UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Sénégal: Etude sur les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire,” p. 14.

[31] Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Circulaire sur la gestion des mariages et des grossesses a l’école,” Circulaire no.004379/ME/SG/DEMSG/DAJLD, October 1, 2007, http://www.education.gouv.sn/root-fr/upload_pieces/Tome%204%20Gestion%20... (accessed February 14, 2018).

[32] UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Sénégal : Etude sur les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire,” p. 64.

[33] UNICEF, Plan West Africa, Save the Children Sweden, et al, “Too Often in Silence,”   March 2010, https://www.unicef.org/cotedivoire/Too_often_in_silence_Report.pdf (accessed July 31, 2018), p. 23; Birné Birgitte Ndour, “Etude sur les violences faites aux filles en milieu scolaire,” May 2008, http://www.genreenaction.net/IMG/pdf/ETUDE_20Rapport_20final_1_.pdf (accessed July 31, 2018); Plan International, “Victimes de l’école – Les violences de genre en milieu scolaire, obstacles au droit des filles et des garçons à l’éducation,” October 2014, http://www.ungei.org/RAPPORT_VGMS_-_BAT_BD.pdf (accessed July 31, 2018), pp. 14, 19; République Française, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères et Européennes, “Les violences de genre en milieu scolaire en Afrique subsaharienne francophone,” 2012, https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/Rapport_violences_en_milieu_scola... (accessed August 22, 2018).

[34] République du Sénégal, Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Interventions sur les violences basées sur le genre en milieu scolaire : état des lieux,” (hard copy on file with Human Rights Watch), p. 8.

[35] Senegal’s Penal Code defines pedophilia as “any gesture, touching, caressing, pornographic manipulation, use of images or sounds … for sexual purposes on a child under sixteen of either sex” (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[36] Ministère de l’Education Nationale, Division de L’Enseignement Moyen et Secondaire Général, “Etat des lieux sur les violences en milieu scolaire dans le moyen secondaire,” undated (hard copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[37] Some interviewees told Human Rights Watch that the study was partly based on questionnaires sent to schools, which were filled in on a voluntary basis. According to a regional inspector who spoke with Human Rights Watch, participation in the study was low in the region of Kolda, and the study does not present a fully accurate picture of the reality in schools in this region. UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Sénégal : Etude sur les Grossesses Précoces en Milieu Scolaire.”

[38] Ibid., p. 11.

[39] Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice on its mission to Senegal,” A/HRC/32/44/Add.1, April 7, 2016, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/070/93/PDF/G1607093.pd... (accessed February 9, 2018), p. 18.

[40] The Committee on the Rights of the Child has recommended that states introduce an acceptable minimum legal age for sexual consent, by taking “into account the need to balance protection and evolving capacities,” and to include a “legal presumption that adolescents are competent to seek and have access to preventive or time-sensitive sexual and reproductive health commodities and services.” States should also “avoid criminalizing adolescents of similar ages for factually consensual and non-exploitative sexual activity.” Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General comment No. 20 (2016) on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence,” CRC/C/GC/20, December 6, 2016, paras. 39 - 40.

[41] République du Sénégal, “Code Pénal,” Loi n. 99-05 du 29 janvier 1999, art. 320 (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch). Human Rights Watch believes states should expand the legal definition of rape to include “any physical invasion of a sexual nature without consent or under coercive circumstances.” A “physical invasion” occurs when there is a penetration, however slight, of any part of the body of the victim (or of the perpetrator by the victim) with a sexual organ, or of the anal or genital opening of the victim with any object or any other part of the body.”

[42] République du Sénégal, “Code Pénal,” Loi n. 99-05 du 29 janvier 1999, art. 319 bis (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid., art. 320 bis and art. 321 (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[46] Ibid., art. 321 (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[47] Ibid., art. 48 (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[48] UNESCO International Institute for Education Planning, “Rapport de Synthèse – e-Forum IIEP-UNESCO sur les Codes de conduite des enseignants,” 2012, http://teachercodes.iiep.unesco.org/teachercodes/resources/Rapport_Forum... (accessed July 31, 2018), p. 5.

[49] Ibid.; Human Rights Watch meeting with Khady Ndiaye Sow, director, Gender and inclusive education bureau, Middle and General Secondary Education division, Ministry of National Education, Dakar, July 23, 2018.

[50] “Code de Déontologie de l’Enseignant(e),” in Gouvernement de Sénégal, Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Assises de l’éducation du Sénégal,” Rapport général, August 3, 2014, http://ekladata.com/VsEYubtB_tfL25iiSwpfrX-x4o0/Rapport-Final-des-Assise... (accessed July 31, 2018), pp. 140 – 144.

[51] “Le Serment de l’Enseignant et de l’Enseignante,” in Gouvernement de Sénégal, Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Assises de l’éducation du Sénégal,” p. 145.

[52] Ibid., pp. 140 – 143.

[53] Apanews, “Les violences sexuelles en milieu scolaire perçues comme le principal obstacle a l’éducation des filles,” Seneweb, November 16, 2012, http://www.seneweb.com/news/Societe/les-violences-sexuelles-en-milieu-sc... (accessed January 31, 2018); Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, “Abus Sexuels, Ce que les enfants en pensent! Extrait des focus group organisés aux Parcelles Assainies et à Pikine en milieu scolaire dans le cadre du 10eme fed.” (copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[54] According to the World Health Organization, sexual exploitation is defined as “any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, threatening or profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.” World Health Organization, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Prevention and Response, Policy and procedures, March 2017, http://www.who.int/about/ethics/sexual-exploitation_abuse-prevention_response_policy.pdf (accessed December 11, 2017).

[55] Human Rights Watch interview with Fatima, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with school principal, Kolda region, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Abdul Aziz Sy, teacher, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Koumba Ndiaye, Brigade contre la violence des femmes et filles, Medina Yoro Foulah, Kolda, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Adama, 16, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[56] Human Rights Watch interview with Zakaria Sambakhe, Policy and Partnership Manager, Action Aid International Senegal, Dakar, June 14, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Mamadou Coulibaly, program manager, Grandmother Project, Vélingara, October 20, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with father of pregnant girl, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[57] UNICEF, Plan West Africa, Save the Children Sweden, et al, “Too Often in Silence,” p. 23; Birné Birgitte Ndour, “Etude sur les violences faites aux filles en milieu scolaire ;” Plan International, “Victimes de l’école – Les violences de genre en milieu scolaire, obstacles au droit des filles et des garçons à l’éducation,” pp. 14, 19; Ministère de l’Education Nationale, Division de L’Enseignement Moyen et Secondaire Général, “Etat des lieux sur les violences en milieu scolaire dans le moyen secondaire,” undated (hard copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[58] Human Rights Watch interview with Yayha Colly Thieto, officer, Groupe pour L’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, Dakar, June 14, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with school principal, Kolda region, October 20, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with regional education officer, Kolda region, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with health officer, Kolda, October 23, 2017; Human Rights Watch group discussions with 41 girls and young women, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017.

[59] Human Rights Watch interview with Aïssatou, 16, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017; Human Rights Watch group discussions with 41 girls and young women, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017.

[60] Human Rights Watch interview with Fatima, 25, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Kiné, 22, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Maïmouna, 16, Sédhiou, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Penda, 17, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 22 girls, Ndorna, Kolda region, October 26, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 9 girls and young women, Congoly village, Bignona, October 29, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 7 girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[61] Ministère de l’Education Nationale, Division de L’Enseignement Moyen et Secondaire Général, “Etat des lieux sur les violences en milieu scolaire dans le moyen secondaire,” undated (hard copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[62] Human Rights Watch interview with Maïmouna, 16, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 23, 2017.

[63] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[64] Human Rights Watch interview with Mariama, 17, Kolda, October 27, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Rokhaya, 17, Kolda, October 27, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Sokna, 19, Dakar, November 4, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Imany, 22, Dakar, November 4, 2017.

[65]Human Rights Watch interview with Thierno Abasse, Executive Director, Education Pour Tous, Dakar, August 14, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Anta, 21, Pikine, Dakar, August 15, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Tidiane Sidibé, adolescent health volunteer, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017; Madi Wake Toure, “Enquête – Droit de cuissage: L’Ecole sénégalaise dans tous ses ebats,” Groupe Futurs Medias, July 22, 2015, http://www.igfm.sn/enquete-droit-de-cuissage-lecole-senegalaise-dans-tou... (accessed January 26, 2018).

[66] Human Rights Watch interview with Hawa, 16, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[67] Human Rights Watch interview with Kodda, 17, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 20, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Aïssatou, 16, Sédhiou, October 23, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Hawa, 17, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 7 girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[68] Human Rights Watch interview with Aïssatou, 16, Sédhiou, October 23, 2017.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Human Rights Watch interview with Antou, 21, Pikine, Dakar, August 15, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Aissata, 21, Pikine, Dakar, August 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch group discussions with 20 girls, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Penda, 17, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017; Human Rights Watch group discussions with 41 girls and young women, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 22 girls, Ndorna, Kolda region, October 26, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 9 girls and young women, Congoly village, Bignona, October 29, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 17 girls and young women, Mpak village, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[71] Human Rights Watch interview with Fanta, 23, village, Sédhiou region, October 24, 2017.

[72] Human Rights Watch interview with Aïcha, 15, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017.

[73] Human Rights Watch interview with Penda, 17, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017.

[74] Human Rights Watch interview with Maïmouna, 16, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 23, 2017.

[75] République du Sénégal, “Code Pénal,” Loi de Base N. 65-60 du 21 Juillet 1965, arts. 319, 320 (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[76] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda region, October 22, 2017.

[77] Some students also felt that teachers got unacceptably close to them when they were writing on the board. Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 6 girls and young women, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 21, 2017.

[78] République du Sénégal, “Code Pénal,” Loi n. 99-05 du 29 janvier 1999, art. 319 bis (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[79] Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 7 girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[80] Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 9 girls and young women, Congoly village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[81] Human Rights Watch interview with Soukeyna, 20, Guédiawaye, August 12, 2017.

[82] Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls and young women, Pikine, Dakar, August 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Coumba, 12, Pikine, Dakar, August 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 6 girls and young women, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 7 girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[83] Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 7 girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017. Corporal punishment in schools is partly illegal in Senegal, but the current law only protects students aged 6 to 14, and is rarely upheld. “Decrée No. 79-11.65 de 1979,” in Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, Plan International, Save the Children, “Interdire les châtiments corporels des enfants en Afrique occidentale et centrale,” Rapport d’Etape 2014, 2014, https://www.crin.org/sites/default/files/west_and_central_africa_report_... (accessed July 30, 2018), p. 49.

[84] Words in quotation marks indicate words used by girls and young women during interviews with Human Rights Watch.

[85] Human Rights Watch interview with Kiné, 22, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls and young women, Pikine, Dakar, August 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with seven girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[86] Human Rights Watch interview with Coumba, 12, Pikine, Dakar, August 15, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls and young women, Pikine, Dakar, August 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 6 girls and young women, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 21, 2017.

[87] Human Rights Watch group discussions with 41 girls and young women, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017.

[88] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Kadiatou Ba, school administrator, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Mariama Barry Diao, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes, Kolda, October 21, 2017.

[89] Human Rights Watch interview with Ndèye Fatou Feye and Sofie Mane, psychology team, Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, Dakar, August 17, 2017.

[90]Human Rights Watch interview with Nené Maricou, president, Youth Women for Action (YWA) Senegal, Dakar, August 12, 2017.

[91] Human Rights Watch interview with Mamadou Lamine Sow, former chief of education, UNICEF Senegal, Dakar, June 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with René Sibomana, executive director, Action Jeunesse et Environement, Dakar, June 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Marietou Dia, gender expert, Dakar, June 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Mariama Barry Diao, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes, Kolda, October 21, 2017.

[92] Vincent Gomis, “L’école sénégalaise menacé par les viols sur mineurs,” SeneNews, August 27, 2013, https://www.senenews.com/actualites/lecole-senegalaise-menace-par-les-vi... (accessed January 18, 2018) ; Seneweb, “3600 cas de viol au Sénégal en 2016,” September 30, 2016 http://www.seneweb.com/news/Societe/3600-cas-de-viol-au-senegal-en-2016_... (accessed January 18, 2018); aDakar, “Violences sexuelles sur les jeunes filles: Indifférence coupable!” July 11, 2016, http://news.adakar.com/h/77040.html (accessed January 18, 2018).

[93] International Development Research Centre, “Les Médias au Sénégal: Outil de Sensibilisation ou de Banalisation des VBG?” March 2014, https://opendocs.ids.ac.uk/opendocs/bitstream/handle/123456789/10126/Les... (accessed February 18, 2018).

[94] Human Rights Watch interview with Seckou Balde, head of psychiatric health and gender focal point, Kolda health centre, Kolda, October 23, 2017.

[95] Human Rights Watch interview with Hassan Deux Diop, director, CEDEPS and coordinator, Centre des Conseils pour Adolescents, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Idrissa Sambou, director, office for social protection and educational assistance, AEMO, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Khady Sow Ndiaye, director, gender and inclusive education bureau, Middle and General Secondary Education division, Ministry of National Education, Dakar, November 3, 2017.

[96] Human Rights Watch interview with Amy Sakho and Nafissatou Seck, Association des Juristes Senegalaises, Pikine, Dakar, August 11, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Idrissa Sambou, director, office for social protection and educational assistance, AEMO, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Sira Corréa, director, Maison d’Acceuil Kullimaaro, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[97] See for example, “Kolda : Le Directeur d’Ecole de Medina Koundie engrosse l’élève mineure,” AlloDakar, November 12, 2015, http://allodakar.com/2015/11/12/kolda-le-directeur-decole-de-medina-koun... (accessed April 6, 2018); Dianke Mane, “Accusé de viol, le professeur soutient : le caleçon retrouvé servait de chiffon,” Senego, March 20, 2018, https://senego.com/accuse-de-viol-le-professeur-soutient-le-calecon-retr... (accessed April 6, 2018).

[98] Human Rights Watch interview with Koumba Ndiaye, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 22, 2017.

[99] Human Rights Watch interview with Sira Corréa, director, Maison d’Acceuil Kullimaaro, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[100] Human Rights Watch interview with Aïssatou, 16, Sédhiou, October 23, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with regional education officer, Kolda region, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Tidiane Sidibé, adolescent health volunteer, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[101] Human Rights Watch interview with senior teacher, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[102] Human Rights Watch interview with Fanta, 23, village, Sédhiou region, October 24, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Tidiane Sidibé, adolescent health volunteer, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[103] Human Rights Watch interview with Cheikh Kane, village, Sédhiou region, October 24, 2017.

[104] Human Rights Watch interview with Hawa Kande, gender focal point, education inspectorate, Kolda, October 24, 2017.

[105] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda region, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Kalidou Sy, mayor, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 21, 2017.

[106] Human Rights Watch interview with Kiné, 22, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda region, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 7 girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[107] Human Rights Watch interview with Koumba Ndiaye, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 22, 2017.

[108] Human Rights Watch interview with Mariama Barry Diao, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes, Kolda, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with father of pregnant girl, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Hassane Deux Diop, director, CDEPS, coordinator, Centre des Conseils pour Adolescents, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[109] The terms “maslaha” and “sutura” are often used interchangeably. The term “maslaha” is derived from a tenet of Islamic shariah law. According to Mariama Khan, a Gambian academic and activist, “Having sutura is considered such an important moral attribute in Senegalese society that individuals often feel compelled to keep private facts or events that could bring shame to themselves or their family members. Challenging the dictates of Sutura is a necessary and courageous act by women who are victims of sexual violence.” Mariama Khan, “Sutura (English version), a Mariama Khan Film,” February 25, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=17&v=5nHVP6uLB8E (accessed February 9, 2018).

[110] Human Rights Watch interview with Mariama Barry Diao, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes Kolda, October 21, 2017.

[111] Human Rights Watch interview with Tidiane Sidibé, adolescent health volunteer, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[112] Human Rights Watch interview with Fanta, 23, village, Sédhiou region, October 24, 2017.

[113] Human Rights Watch with Cheikh Kane, village, Sédhiou region, October 24, 2017.

[114] Human Rights Watch interview with Ndèye Fatou Feye and Sofie Mane, psychology team, Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, Dakar, August 17, 2017.

[115] See Unesco and UN Women, “Global Guidance – School-Related Gender-Based Violence,” 2016, http://www.ungei.org/Global_Guidance_SRGBV.pdf (accessed February 18, 2018), pp. 34 – 50.

[116] Lauren Ziegler, “Tuseme : Girls’ Empowerment Theater-for-Development Clubs Sénégal,” https://www.changemakers.com/educationafrica/entries/tuseme-girls-empowe... (accessed February 18, 2018).

[117] “Cadre de Coordination des Interventions sur l’Education des Filles,” See, for example, Ministère de l’Education Nationale et Cooperazione Italiana, Cadre de Coordination des Interventions sur l’Education des Filles (CCIEF), “Evaluation du Projet d’Appui à l’Education des Filles (PAEF) – Rapport de Synthèse,” May 2013, http://openaid.esteri.it/media/documents/Rapporto_sintetico_valutazione_... (accessed July 31, 2018).

[118] Human Rights Watch interview with Tacko Koita, principal, Mpak village, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[119] Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 17 girls and young women, Mpak village, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[120] Human Rights Watch interview with Lalia Mané, teacher, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[121] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Vélingara, October 18, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda region, October 20, 2017.

[122] République du Sénégal, “Stratégie Nationale de Protection de L’Enfant,” December 2013, https://www.unicef.org/senegal/french/SNPS.pdf (accessed September 19, 2018), p. 11; Child Frontiers, “Cartographie et Analyse des Systèmes de Protection de L’Enfance au Senegal – Rapport Final,” January 2011, https://www.unicef.org/wcaro/french/Senegal_Carto_Analyse_Systemes_Prot_... (accessed September 19, 2018).

[123] République du Sénégal, “Stratégie Nationale de Protection de L’Enfant.”

[124] Ibid., pp. 26, 27 – 34.

[125] Ibid., p. 5.

[126] Human Rights Watch interview with Amadou Lamine Wade, Inspector of Education and Training, Vélingara, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Idrissa Sambou, director, office for social protection and educational assistance, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[127] Human Rights Watch interview with Amadou Lamine Wade, Inspector of Education and Training, Vélingara, October 21, 2017.

[128] République du Sénégal, “Stratégie Nationale de Protection de l’Enfant – Modèle de Structuration et de Fonctionnement des Comités Départementaux de Protection de l’Enfant,” September 2014, https://www.unicef.org/senegal/french/MODEL.pdf (accessed June 20, 2018), p. 20.

[129] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Vélingara, October 18, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[130] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Vélingara, October 18, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with school principal, Kolda region, October 20, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school teacher, Kolda region, October 23, 2017.

[131] Human Rights Watch interview with former school principal, Dakar, August 14, 2017.

[132] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda region, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Antoinette Nzaly-Gaye, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[133] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda region, October 22, 2017.

[134] Only a handful of schools receive financial support or technical know-how from international NGOs to maintain these observatories. Human Rights Watch interview with Amadou Lamine Wade, Inspector of Education and Training, Vélingara, October 21, 2017.

[135] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[136] Human Rights Watch interview with regional education officer, Kolda region, October 22, 2017.

[137] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school teacher, Kolda region, October 23, 2017.

[138] Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, “Abus Sexuels, Ce que les enfants en pensent! Extrait des focus group organisés aux Parcelles Assainies et à Pikine en milieu scolaire dans le cadre du 10eme fed,” (copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[139] Unesco and UN Women, “Global Guidance – School-related gender-based violence,”2016, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002466/246651E.pdf (accessed April 10, 2018).

[140] Human Rights Watch interview with Ndèye Fatou Faye and Sofie Mame, psychology team, Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, Dakar, August 17, 2018.

[141] Oumoul Khaïry Coulibaly, “Violences sexuelles et accès a la justice: le mode d’établissement des preuves, un frein majeur a la lutte,” SeneNews Premium, March 12, 2018, https://www.senenews.com/actualites/violences-sexuelles-et-acces-a-la-ju... (accessed April 9, 2018).

[142] Human Rights Watch interview with Marietou Dia, gender expert, Dakar, June 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Amy Sakho and Nafissatou Seck, Association des Juristes Senegalaises, Pikine, Dakar, August 11, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Mariama Barry Diao, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes, Kolda, October 21, 2017. The Association des Femmes Juristes found that judges often relax a sentence of rape or acts of pedophilia where the plaintiff has not been able to produce a medical certificate to attest a rape. Association des Femmes Juristes, “Jurisprudence sur le viol au Sénégal (1990 à 2013): le déni de justice aux victimes,” undated, http://femmesjuristes.org/?page_id=218 (accessed August 22, 2018).

[143] Association des Juristes Sénégalaises, “Prise en Charge,” http://femmesjuristes.org/?page_id=426 (accessed February 15, 2018); Service Public Sénégalais, “Demander à faire bénéficier à un enfant d’un service de l’action éducative en milieu ouvert (AEMO),” http://www.servicepublic.gouv.sn/index.php/demarche_administrative/demar... (accessed February 15, 2018).

[144] Human Rights Watch meeting with general commander, Gendarmerie, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch meeting with deputy prefect, Ziguinchor prefecture, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[145] Human Rights Watch interview with El Hadj Nfally Sané, Focal point for projet PEGMISS, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[146] Human Rights Watch interview with Amadou Lamine Wade, Inspector of Education and Training, Vélingara, October 19, 2017.

[147] Ibid.

[148] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[149] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[150] Human Rights Watch interview with regional education officer, Kolda region, October 22, 2017.

[151] Human Rights Watch interview with Mor Diakhate, executive director, ALPHADEV, Malika, Dakar, August 11, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with school principal, Kolda region, October 20, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Kalidou Sy, mayor, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[152] Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Projet de politique de formation des personnels de l’éducation,” May 2014, http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Dakar/pdf/Projetpolitiq... (accessed January 31, 2018), p. 27 ; Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Gouvernance de la formation des personnels de l’éducation au Sénégal,” May 7, 2014, http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Dakar/pdf/gouvernancepersonnelseducation_draft_2.pdf (accessed September 10, 2018), p. 12.

[153] USAID, “Promoting safe middle schools in Senegal,” 2010, http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pnaea258.pdf (accessed February 14, 2018).

[154] Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Projet de politique de formation des personnels de l’éducation,” p. 29.

[155] Ibid., pp. 27 and 31.

[156] Ibid., p. 21.

[157] Human Rights Watch interview with Saourou Sené, Secretary General, Syndicat Autonome des Enseignants du Moyen et Secondaire du Senegal (SAEMSS), Dakar, August 14, 2017.

[158] Ibid.

[159] Agence Nationale de la Statistique et de la Démographie, Senegal Data Portal, “Indicator : Education : Effectif des enseignants – Public-Total Moyen et Secondaire (2004 - 2015),” published January 2017, http://senegal.opendataforafrica.org/cwafhf/education-efffectif-des-%C3%A9l%C3%A8ves-et-des-enseignants-de-l-enseignement-moyen-et-secondaire (acccessed June 20, 2018).

[160] Data for 2015 shows that 1,768 female middle and secondary school teachers were placed in rural areas, compared with 3,796 female teachers placed in urban areas. Ibid.; République du Sénégal, “Rapport National sur la situation de l’Education 2016,” p. 144.

[161] Human Rights Watch interview with Amadou Lamine Wade, Inspector of Education and Training, Vélingara, October 21, 2017.

[162] The “gender bonus” provides 15 points for women who apply for a post in a rural area, in contrast to 10 points for those who apply for a role in urban areas. Teachers can move on to roles with greater responsibilities depending on the points they acquire throughout their careers. République du Sénégal, Ministère de l’Education Nationale et Ministère de la Formation Professionnelle de l’Apprentissage et de l’Artisanat,” Direction des Ressources Humaines – Guide Pratique du Mouvement des Personnels Enseignants,” April 2016, http://www.mirador.education.gouv.sn/miroirs/PDFMiroirs/Guide%20r%C3%A9a... (accessed June 20, 2018), p. 4 ; République du Sénégal, “Rapport National sur la situation de l’Education 2016,” p. 144.

[163] Alliance Nationale des Jeunes pour la Santé de le Réproduction et de la Planification Familiale, “Rapport du 1er Forum National des Jeunes sur la SSRAJ,” January 2017, (copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[164] Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Education pour la vie familiale,” “Le Club EVF,” undated, http://www.geep.org/geep/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=55&It... (accessed February 18, 2018).

[165] Human Rights Watch interview with Yahya Colly Thieto, officer, Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, Dakar, June 14, 2017.

[166] Human Rights Watch interview with Sadou Baldé, middle school teacher, Kolda, October 22, 2017. See, for example, UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Education à la Sexualité Complete – Un Module de Formation Pour Adolescent( e)s,” Edition 2014, and “Boite à Outils de Plaidoyer pour l’Intégration de l’Education a la Sante Sexuelle et Reproductive des Adolescents/tes et des Jeunes (ESSRAJ) a l’Ecole,” June 2017 (copies on file with Human Rights Watch).

[167] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017.

[168] Human Rights Watch interview with Yahya Colly Thieto, officer, Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, Dakar, July 24, 2018.

[169] Human Rights Watch interview with Meta, 15, Vélingara, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Sadou Balde, middle school teacher, Kolda, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school teacher, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[170] Human Rights Watch interview with Meta, 15, Vélingara, October 21, 2017.

[171] Janet Burns, “Research Confirms that Abstinence-Only Education Hurts Kids,” Forbes, August 23, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetwburns/2017/08/23/research-confirms-th... (accessed February 17, 2018); John Santelli and Mary A. Ott, “Abstinence-only education policies and programs: A position paper for the Society for Adolescent Medicine,” (2006) 38 Journal of Adolescent Health https://www.adolescenthealth.org/SAHM_Main/media/Advocacy/Positions/Jan-... (accessed February 18, 2018), pp. 83- 87; Human Rights Watch, “The Less They Know, the Better,” Abstinence-Only HIV/ADIS Programs in Uganda, March 2005 https://www.hrw.org/report/2005/03/30/less-they-know-better/abstinence-o....

[172] Human Rights Watch interview with Dame Ndiaye, coordinator, Right Here, Right Now, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017.

[173] Human Rights Watch interview with midwife, health post, Ndorna village, Kolda region, October 27, 2017.

[174] Human Rights Watch interview with Ruhiyyeh Banister, Peace Corps volunteer, Ndorna village, Kolda region, October 27, 2017.

[175] UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Sénégal: Etude sur les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire, Rapport,” p. 7 ; UNICEF, UN Population Fund and Ministère de la Femme, de la Famille et de L’Enfance, “Rapport de l’étude: Analyses des Déterminants Sociaux Culturels et Economiques des Facteurs favorisants les Mariages d’Enfants dans les Régions de Diourbel-Fatick-Kaffrine-Kédougou-Kolda-Louga-Matam-Tambacounda et de Sédhiou,” January 2017 (copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[176] Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls, Vélingara, October 19, 2017.

[177] Human Rights Watch interview with Sadou Balde, middle school teacher, Kolda, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls, Vélingara, October 19, 2017.

[178] Human Rights Watch interview with Meta, 15, Vélingara, October 21, 2017.

[179] Katie Chau, Aminata Traoré Seck et al, “Scaling up sexuality education in Senegal: integrating family life education into the national curriculum,” January 6, 2016, 16(5) Sex Education - Sexuality, Society and Learning, https://doi.org/10.1080/14681811.2015.1123148 (accessed June 20, 2018), pp. 504, 506, 512.

[180] United Nations technical guidance provides that “sexuality” is understood as: A core dimension of being human which includes; the understanding of, and relationship to, the human body; emotional attachment and love; sex; gender; gender identity; sexual orientation; sexual intimacy; pleasure and reproduction. UNESCO, UNFPA et al, “International technical guidance on sexuality education – An evidence-informed approach,” 2018, https://www.unfpa.org/publications/international-technical-guidance-sexuality-education (accessed April 6, 2018), p. 17. Human Rights Watch interview with Xavier Hospital, regional education and health specialist, UNESCO, Dakar, June 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch phone interview with Andrea Wojnar-Diagne, former country director, UN Population Fund Senegal, May 22, 2017.

[181] Human Rights Watch interview with Ousmane Diouf, coordinator, Alliance Nationale des Jeunes pour la Santé de la Reproduction et la Planification Familiale, Dakar, June 13, 2017.

[182] Katie Chau, Aminata Traoré Seck et al, “Scaling up sexuality education in Senegal: integrating family life education into the national curriculum,” p. 512.

[183] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, “General recommendation no. 36 (2017) on the rights of girls and women to education,” November 27 ,2017, CEDAW/C/GC/36, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?sy..., (accessed January 26, 2018), para. 68.

[184] UNESCO, UN Population Fund, et al, “International technical guidance on sexuality education - An evidence-informed approach,” pp. 34, 121.

[185] Human Rights Watch interview with Samboudyang Kambaye, adolescent health peer educator, Centre des Conseils d’ Adolescents, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[186] Human Rights Watch interview with Georgette Barboza, Action Jeunesse et Environnement, Kerr Massar, Dakar, June 15, 2017.

[187] Human Rights Watch interview with Fathy, 22, Kolda, October 27, 2017.

[188] Human Rights Watch interview with Khady, 25, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017.

[189] Human Rights Watch interview with Babacar Sy, director, Centre des Conseils d’Adolescents, Kolda, October 21, 2017.

[190] Human Rights Watch interview with Mamadou Coulibaly, program manager, Grandmother Project, Vélingara, October 20, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Babacar Sy, director, Centre des Conseils d’Adolescents, Kolda, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Abdoulaye Diao, regional coordinator, Tostan, Kolda, October 21, 2017.

[191] Projet Promotion des Jeunes, “Le projet de la promotion de la jeunesse, Centres des conseils pour adolescents,” http://www.conseil-ados.com/le-ppj.html (accessed February 15, 2018).

[192] Ibid.

[193] Ibid.

[194] Ministère de la Santé et l’Action Sociale, “Plan stratégique de santé sexuelle et de la réproduction des adolescent(e)s/jeunes au SENEGAL (2014-2018) ;” Ministère de la Santé, de l’Hygiène Publique et de la Prevention, “Plan Stratégique de la Santé de la Reproduction 2011 – 2015,” https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/admin-resource/Senegal%20Plan%... (accessed February 15, 2018); Ministère de la Santé et de l’Action Sociale, “Document de Programmation Pluriannuelle des Depenses, DPPD-Sante 2014 – 2016,” http://www.nationalplanningcycles.org/sites/default/files/planning_cycle... (accessed February 15, 2018), p. 7 – 8 ; Le Partenariat de Ouagadougou, “Sénégal,” https://partenariatouaga.org/en/country/senegal/ (accessed February 15, 2018); Ministère de la Santé et de l’Action Sociale, “Cadre stratégique national de planification familiale 2016 -2020,” https://partenariatouaga.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Plan-dAction-... (accessed February 15, 2018); Organisation Ouest Africaine de la Santé, “Guide D’Orientation pour l’élaboration des stratégies nationales de sante des adolescentes et jeunes des pays de la CEDEAO,” August 2016, http://www.wahooas.org/IMG/pdf/Guide_2016_OOAS_francais.pdf (accessed February 16, 2018).

[195] Human Rights Watch interview with Ousmane Diouf, national coordinator, Alliance Nationale des Jeunes pour la Santé de la Réproduction et la Planification Familiale, Dakar, June 13, 2017.

[196] Projet Pour l’Eradication des grossesses en milieu scolaire au Sénégal (PEGMISS); Sénégal Education, “Sénégal – Lutte contre les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire,” June 15, 2017, https://educationsn.com/senegal-lutte-contre-grossesses-precoces-milieu-... (accessed August 2, 2018) ; Sénégal Education, “Eradication des grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire Pikine et Guédiawaye s’engagent à la généralisation du code d’éthique,” December 4, 2017, https://educationsn.com/eradication-grossesses-precoces-milieu-scolaire-...édiawaye-sengagent-a-generalisation-code-dethique/ (accessed August 2, 2018); Thiam Mamadou, “Sénégal – Lutte contre les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire,” La Vie Sénégalaise, June 15, 2017, https://www.laviesenegalaise.com/senegal-lutte-contre-les-grossesses-pre... (accessed August 2, 2018).

[197] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 49, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 993 U.N.T.S. 3, entered into force January 3, 1976, ratified by Senegal on February 13, 1978, art. 13; Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted November 20, 1989, G.A. Res. 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 167, U.N. Doc. A/44/49 (1989), entered into force September 2, 1990, ratified by Senegal on July 31, 1990, art. 28; African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/24.9/49 (1990), entered into force November 29, 1999, ratified by Senegal on September 29, 1998, art. 11; Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/66.6 (2000), adopted by the 2nd Ordinary Session of the assembly of the Union, Maputo, September 13, 2000, entered into force November 25, 2005, ratified by Senegal on December 27, 2004, art. 12(1)(a) and (c).

[198] ICESCR, art. 13; African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, art. 11 (3).

[199] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, “General Comment No. 13, “The Right to Education (Art. 13),” E/C.12/1999/10 (1999), http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Education/Training/Compilation/Pages/d)GeneralCommentNo13Therighttoeducation(article13)(1999).aspx (accessed June 20, 2018), para. 11 -12.

[200] ICESCR, art. 13(2)(b); CRC, art. 28(1) (b); African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, art. 11(3)(b); African Youth Charter, art. 13(1) and 13(4)(b).

[201] Human Rights Watch, “Open Letter for President Macky Sall on Free Secondary Education in Senegal,” January 25, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/25/open-letter-president-macky-sall-free-secondary-education-senegal.

[202] Maputo Protocol, art. 12(1)(a) and (c).

[203] African Youth Charter (2006), adopted in Banjul, Gambia on July 2, 2006, entered into force August 8, 2009, ratified by Senegal on September 17, 2009, art. 13(1) and art. 13(4)(b).

[204] CRC, art. 34.

[205] CRC, art. 19 (1). See Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children and Save The Children, “Towards non-violent schools: prohibiting all corporal punishment, Global report 2015,” May 2015, http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/assets/pdfs/reports-thematic/Schools%20Report%202015-EN.pdf (accessed September 19, 2018), pp. 4–5.

[206] Maputo Protocol, arts. 3(4) and 4(2)(b).

[207] Maputo Protocol, art. 12 (1)(b).

[208] Maputo Protocol, art. 12 (1)(b).

[209] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, “General recommendation No. 36 (2017) on the rights of girls and women to education,” CEDAW/C/GC/36, November 27, 2017, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/TBSearch.aspx?Lang=en&TreatyID=5&DocTypeID=11 (accessed April 6, 2018), para. 69 (a).

[210] African Union, African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, “Statement on Violence Against Children,” 2011, http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/assets/pdfs/reference-documents/ACERWC-statement-on-VAC-2011-EN.pdf (accessed September 19, 2018).

[211] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 4, Adolescent Health and Development in the Context of the Convention on the Rights of Child,” CRC/GC/2003/4, (2003), http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/Health/GC4.pdf (accessed April 10, 2018), paras. 16, 20, and 35 (g). African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, “Joint General Comment on Ending Child Marriage,” 2017, http://www.achpr.org/files/news/2018/01/d321/joint_gc_acerwc_achpr_endin... (accessed April 10, 2018).

[212] African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, art. 21 (2). Prohibitions on child marriage and non-discrimination are also included in the Maputo Protocol. At least 13 international and regional instruments extend protections from child marriage. African Child Policy Forum, “Provisions of International and Regional Instruments Relevant to Protection from Child Marriage,” May 2013, http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/International-a... (accessed June 20, 2018).

[213] African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, art. 21 (2).

[214] Senegal’s Family Code considers anyone under the age of 18 a minor. République du Sénégal, “Code de la Famille,” 2000, arts. 267 and 111 (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[215] République du Sénégal, “Code Pénal,” Loi de Base N. 65-60 du 21 Juillet 1965, art. 300, (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[216] Girls Not Brides, “Senegal Launches African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage,” June 23, 2016, https://www.fillespasepouses.org/senegal-launches-african-union-campaign... (accessed February 5, 2018).

[217] African Union, “Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa: Call to Action,” May 2014, https://au.int/sites/default/files/pages/32905-file-campaign_to_end_chil... (accessed June 20, 2018).

[218] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Concluding observations on the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Senegal,” CRC/C/SEN/CO/3-5, March 7, 2016, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/044/22/PDF/G1604422.pd... (accessed February 14, 2018). p. 11 - 12.

[219] Maputo Protocol, art. 14 (2)(a).

[220] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General comment No. 20 (2016) on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence,” CRC/C/GC/20, December 6, 2016, para. 59.

[221] Ibid., para. 61.

[222] République du Sénégal, Journal Officiel, Loi no. 2005-18 du 5 Aout 2005 relative à la santé de la reproduction, http://www.jo.gouv.sn/spip.php?article2613 (accessed February 15, 2018).

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A mural in Xinjiang reads "Stability is a blessing, Instability is a calamity," Yarkand, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China on September 20, 2012. 

© 2012 Getty Images
(New York) – The Chinese government should release to their families children held in orphanages in Xinjiang because their parents have been arbitrarily detained, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Financial Times and the Associated Press have reported on the removal of children of detained Turkic Muslims from their extended families and placed in state institutions. Human Rights Watch’s September 2018 report on mass detentions in Xinjiang detailed one such case. One million Turkic Muslims are credibly estimated to be detained in unlawful political education camps in Xinjiang, along with an unknown number arbitrarily held in detention centers and prisons, under China’s abusive “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism.”

“China’s authorities are cruelly putting the children of some of Xinjiang’s political detainees in state institutions,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “This is part of a perverse government program to take Turkic Muslim children from their extended families in the name of children’s material well-being.”

In November 2016, Xinjiang’s Chinese Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo ordered local officials to place all orphans from Xinjiang into institutions by 2020 as part of a range of development initiatives for the region. The order involves “concentrating” (集中收养) orphans previously cared for in “a scattered manner” – including by their extended families – and placing them in institutions to “improve their living standards.”

The regional policy broadly defines orphans as “children who have lost their parents or whose parents cannot be found;” in some regions this includes those whose one or both parents are detained or imprisoned.

Under Xinjiang’s regional implementation policy, issued in January 2017, local officials are encouraged to “channel” children it considers orphans into state orphanages, including by filling all empty beds in existing orphanages and upgrading and building new facilities. Some of these new facilities appear designed to house 100 or more children, according to media accounts. The government’s goal is to move from 24 percent institutionalization rate of “orphans” in Xinjiang to 100 percent between 2017 and 2020.

While the regional policy generally describes the targets of the policy as those who “wish to be institutionalized,” it otherwise gives no details concerning consent. It is unclear whether it is the children’s, the parents,’ or the extended families’ wishes that would be taken into consideration; which government agency would make the decision; and whether there are procedures for determining such consent or to challenge such determination.

A local government report in September 2017 states that children can stay with guardians who are unwilling to send them to orphanages. However, other localities have received hard quotas to be filled. In Jimsar County, officials were required to send 30 orphans to institutions by October 2017. In Xinyuan County, the authorities ordered officials to institutionalize 60 orphans by November 2017 or suffer demerits. In Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, a policy report acknowledges the difficulties in meeting those demands: “The orphans’ guardians are relatives such as grandparents…the guardians do not wish to give the children to the institutions. The guardians and the children are unwilling to be separated long-term, and do not trust that the orphanages to be a safe place for the children.”

Article 4 of China’s Adoption Law defines orphans as “those under 14 who have lost their parents, those whose parents cannot be found, and those whose parents have special difficulties and are unable to raise their children.” While article 43 of China’s Law on the Protection of Minors says that orphanages established by the Ministry of Civil Affairs have the responsibility to care for orphans, Chinese law does not empower government authorities to remove children from their relatives to place them in state care, nor any legal procedures to do so.

Reports of children being placed in orphanages against their families’ wishes are particularly alarming given the government’s sustained assault on the cultural identity of Turkic Muslim minority communities in Xinjiang, as Human Rights Watch and others have documented. In schools, authorities have long prohibited children from learning religion and have progressively marginalized the use of ethnic languages while promoting the use of Mandarin as the medium of instructions. All Muslim religious practice has been curtailed.

The preamble to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Chinese government has ratified, recognizes the family as the natural environment for the growth and well-being of children. The convention obligates governments to ensure that a “child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.” Such a determination may be necessary in a particular case, such as involving parental abuse or neglect.

Even when alternative care arrangements are necessary, care by close family members should be given priority. Removing a child from the family’s care is normally a measure of last resort and should, whenever possible, be temporary and for the shortest possible duration. Officials need to ensure that a child who is capable of forming their own views has the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting them. The child’s views should be given due consideration in accordance with their age and maturity.

All decisions concerning alternative care should take full account of the desirability, in principle, of maintaining the child as close as possible to their habitual place of residence, to facilitate contact and potential reintegration with the child’s family, and to minimize disruption of the child’s educational, cultural, and social life.

As information has emerged in recent months about mass, systematic human rights violations in Xinjiang, United Nations bodies, governments, and others have publicly expressed concern about China’s policies. The United States has been considering imposing sanctions on various Xinjiang officials and entities. Germany and Sweden have temporarily suspended deportations of ethnic Uighurs to China. But governments should take stronger steps, notably by creating an international coalition to gather evidence of serious abuses and press for accountability.

“By unnecessarily sending children in Xinjiang to state institutions, officials are adding to the trauma of China’s ‘Strike Hard’ Campaign,” Richardson said. “Governments that weren’t previously outraged by Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang should press China to change course immediately and limit the long-term harm of these policies.”
 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Women prepare food in Hamdallaye village in the Boké region. Compensation payments for land lost to mining are often paid to male heads of household or lineages, even where the land is utilized by entire families or households. January 2018. 

© 2018 Ricci Shryock for Human Rights Watch

Rural women and girls play vital roles in their families and communities. They produce food, gather water, provide care, and navigate myriad challenges from poverty to environmental disasters, due to climate change. Today marks the International Day for Rural Women.

But too often, rural women and girls face extreme challenges in realizing their human rights. Many are denied equal property and inheritance rights, and may lose land and other property if they divorce or are widowed. When whole communities are forced off their lands because of mining or commercial agriculture, they suffer different hardships from men, such as walking longer distances to find clean water – an essential task done mainly by women. Rural women and girls are often excluded from leadership and decision-making, they are denied justice systems and policing services, and are at added risk of violence and harmful customary practices.

In developing countries, women constitute on average 43 percent of the agricultural labor force. However, their ownership of agricultural land remains significantly lower than men’s. Human Rights Watch research in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Guinea, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia highlights how even with laws on paper protecting women’s access to land and property, government implementation of these laws is weak and oversight is poor.

Some progress has been made to recognize rural women’s rights, including their land and property rights. Last month the UN Human Rights Council adopted a draft Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, recognizing the significant role rural women play in the economic survival of their families and the rural and national economy. In 2016, a UN committee on women’s rights adopted guidance on the rights of rural women. Some countries have adopted laws that should protect women’s property and inheritance rights, but implementation often falters.

Amidst grave global threats of inequality, environmental degradation, and poverty, it’s past time to stop holding rural women back. Governments, corporations, families, and others need to fully respect their human rights. 

Author: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Iran's national flags are seen on a square in Tehran February 10, 2012.

© 2012 Reuters

Last week, Iranian authorities executed Zeinab Sakaavand for allegedly murdering her husband when she was 17. During her trial the court discounted Sakaavand’s claims that her husband frequently beat and abused her. She was only 15 when they were married.

Sakaavand is the fifth child offender that Iran has executed this year. On January 30, Mahboubeh Mofidi was executed for allegedly murdering her husband when she was 17. The same day, Ali Kazemi was executed for a murder he allegedly committed at 15. Amirhossein Pourjafar was also executed in January for the rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl when he was 16. In June, authorities executed Abolfazl Chazani for an alleged murder he committed at 14.

Iran is one of only four countries known to have executed child offenders since 2013. Amnesty International has identified 49 alleged child offenders at risk of execution in Iran, and the United Nations Secretary-General reported that there were 160 child offenders on death row in Iran as of late 2014.

Iran changed its laws in 2013 to limit when child offenders could face capital punishment – they granted judges the discretion to not sentence to death a child offender who could not comprehend the nature and consequences of the crime when it happened.

Yet the law allows courts to rely on a forensic doctor’s opinion as to whether a defendant understood the consequences of their actions. In the case of 14-year-old Chazani, the Legal Medicine Organization of Iran reportedly concluded he had reached “developmental maturity” at the time of the crime. Even with this flawed approach to the death penalty, research shows children are far more predisposed toward impulsive decisions.

Especially troubling is the cases of the two young women executed for killing their husbands who both were victims of child marriages and possible domestic abuse. In Iran, girls can marry at 13 and boys at 15. Girls who marry as children face a higher risk of physical and sexual abuse than women who marry later.

Under Iran’s Qisas law, an intentional murder is punishable by death but victims’ families can forgive the accused to save them from execution. This means the burden has been on activists and mourning families to work around the law. It is time for Iranian authorities to recognize their own responsibility and end the execution of child offenders once and for all. 

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

© 2017 Marco Tibasima for Human Rights Watch

African governments should ensure the right to education for all girls by ending discrimination against those who are pregnant or have children, Human Rights Watch said today ahead of the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child.

This year’s theme, “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce, ” has particular importance for Africa, where governments are forcing tens of thousands of girls to drop out of school prematurely and failing to teach them adequate skills.

“Africa cannot have a skilled workforce if authorities throw girls out of school because they are pregnant,” said Agnes Odhiambo, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “When girls get a quality education, they gain the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their potential and transform their lives, families and communities.”

Video

International Day of the Girl Video

Millions of girls across Africa are banned or discouraged from school because they’re pregnant, already a mother, or forced into marriage.

In Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania, government and school officials deny pregnant girls the right to attend school. Elsewhere in Africa, governments are not doing enough to ensure that adolescent mothers resume their education after pregnancy.

In 2013, African Union member countries unanimously adopted Agenda 2063, a continent-wide economic and social development strategy. Under this strategy, African governments committed to build Africa’s “human capital,” which the AU terms “its most precious resource,” through sustained investments in education, including “elimination of gender disparities at all levels of education.”

In 2017, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child called on African countries to put in place measures to achieve equal access to education for girls and boys. They jointly stated that, “it is compulsory … to facilitate the retention and re-entry of pregnant or married girls in schools.” In 2018, the AU called on member countries to “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development.”

Although many African governments have made strong commitments to guarantee that pregnant girls and young mothers can attend school, girls face many difficulties in enrolling and remaining in school, and excelling academically, Human Rights Watch said. Many teenage mothers are not in school because of poor implementation and weak monitoring of national re-entry policies. Pregnant girls and young mothers are often stigmatized or rejected, have little to no support from their family or school, are condemned by government officials, face economic hardship, and are sometimes exposed to exploitation and violence. These problems present barriers to girls who are trying to continue their education.

Discriminatory government policies often regard education for adolescent mothers as a privilege that can be withdrawn as a punishment. In June 2018, Burundi – a country with widespread sexual violence with near-total impunity – reversed its policy protecting girls’ right to education regardless of pregnancy, their marital status, or motherhood. Burundi’s education minister in June 2018 banned the boys who get the girls pregnant as well as the girls themselves – including those forced into marriage – from going to formal public or private schools. A month later, under unclear circumstances, the minister lifted the ban.

In some countries, adolescent mothers are expected to transfer to technical and vocational centers, which often charge tuition fees and provide poor-quality training. Human Rights Watch has found that female students are very often limited in the technical subjects they are allowed to study in these centers.

The African Union should not tolerate discrimination against pregnant girls and adolescent mothers. It should press all member countries to end, in policy and practice, the expulsion of female students who become pregnant or get married. Governments should ensure girls get the support they need to remain in education, including through small accommodations – for example, giving students time for prenatal checks (where those cannot happen outside class time), time to breastfeed during breaks, and time off in case her child is ill or to comply with other medical or bureaucratic requirements.

African governments should also adopt a comprehensive approach to girls’ education, and address the many factors that lead to teenage pregnancies and difficulties that prevent girls from getting an education. The steps governments should take include eliminating primary and secondary school fees and providing financial support for at-risk and highly vulnerable girls; and strengthening the quality of education provided in public schools, including through effective teacher training.

Governments should also ensure that schools have systems to protect students’ safety; and provide adolescents with access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education and services at school and in the community, as well as birth control. Governments should also provide information to parents, guardians, and communities about the benefits of educating girls.

“Banning pregnant girls from schools is counterproductive and contrary to African governments’ international legal obligations,” Odhiambo said. “Ensuring that all girls benefit from quality education, free from discrimination, is critical for building a skilled female workforce for Africa’s development.” 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

African governments should ensure the right to education for all girls by ending discrimination against those who are pregnant or have children.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A group of Doctors meet in the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi October 4, 2013. 

© 2013 Reuters

On September 13, Lambda Legal and interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth published a detailed guide on how to make hospitals compassionate, affirming, and evidence-driven centers for intersex health care. It is very badly needed.

I have interviewed dozens of doctors, surgeons, and mental health providers who care for intersex children in the US, and who work with parents of children born with genital differences.

Every practitioner I met across the United States told me they needed more data and guidance. Every parent told me they just wanted the information and advice they needed to raise a healthy and happy child. Every person with intersex traits whose story I heard spoke of the deep desire to make informed decisions about their own body. A 40-year-old intersex woman in California told me about the medical care she received as a child: ““I felt like I was being treated like I was on fire, and they were going to throw water on me because I was on fire.” She said: “But all that time, they didn’t realize I was drowning.”

Unfortunately, affirmative and respectful care for intersex people is not the norm — far from it.

“Intersex” refers to the approximately 1.7 percent of the population born with a range of bodily traits that do not fit conventional expectations of female or male. Their sex characteristics, such as chromosomes, gonads, or genitals, may differ from social expectations. These variations are medically benign.

But in the 1960s, American surgeons popularized cosmetic operations to “normalize” intersex children. These children generally have no medical problem. And no data has ever demonstrated that the operations help children “fit in” or “function in society,” which some surgeons say is the aim of the procedures. The operations, such as clitoral reductions, vaginoplasties, and gonadectomies, carry high risks of scarring, incontinence, sterilization, and psychological trauma.

I heard from parents who felt coerced — even bullied — into going ahead with cosmetic surgeries to which their children are not old enough to consent. Some surgeons, under the protection of anonymity in our interviews, described to me how they told parents that surgery could prevent their kid’s suicide — which is flagrantly untrue and deeply unfair to confused and distressed parents.

But most of the doctors I spoke with acknowledged the shortcomings of intersex health care, even in their own practice over the years. They wanted guidance and policy to help them do better, as a community of physicians who took an oath to “Do No Harm” by their intersex patients.

Now that guidance exists.

Lambda and interACT’s new guidelines make it clear: Intersex patients need specialized care, but above all, they need honesty and support from their doctors. There are parallels in transgender health care issues and good basic standards for informed consent that should be applied to all patients. Intersex people aren’t asking for anything groundbreaking or special — just respect and transparency, and an end to the coercive early surgery that has damaged so many lives.

The document outlines how hospitals should include variations in sex characteristics in their non-discrimination policies, establish and uphold policies ensuring that their surgeons will not perform medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex children who are too young to give their own informed consent, support parents of intersex infants, and refrain from stigmatizing intersex children.

Doctors have in recent years increasingly acknowledged that they need guidance on intersex issues to avoid repeating past mistakes.

In 2017, Dr. Ilene Wong, a urologist in Pennsylvania, acknowledged the harm in which she took part when she operated on an intersex child without her consent. She wrote in Newsweek: “Eight years ago, I did irrevocable damage to the first intersex person I ever met.” Dr. Wong, who has become a staunch intersex patient advocate, knows that her field of surgery has stuck stubbornly to an outdated and harmful paradigm.

“The psychological damage caused by intervention is just as staggering, as evidenced by generations of intersex adults dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, problems with intimacy and severe depression,” she said.

Other doctors agree.

“It is harmful to make sex assignments based on characteristics other than gender identity,” said Dr. Deanna Adkins, the director of the Duke University Center for Child and Adolescent Gender Care, when she testified in a North Carolina court against the state’s notorious anti-transgender “bathroom bill.” Infants too young to walk or speak cannot express their gender identity. So the surgeries in question should be deferred until they can express their gender identity and give their informed consent for procedures that will alter how their bodies look and feel.

Alice Dreger, a bioethicist who served on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) intersex research project before resigning in protest in 2015, wrote of her two decades of engagement on the intersex surgery controversy: “While many clinicians have privately shared my outrage about these activities, in public, the great majority have remained essentially silent.”

The new guide from Lambda Legal and interACT gives those physicians footing to make a difference by creating policies that will make their intersex patients feel welcome in their clinics — and ensure they receive care that affirms them and their choices about their bodies, rather than subjecting them to other people’s ideals.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Restraints on a bed in a seclusion room for children in Lopača Psychiatric Hospital, in southwest Croatia. 

© 2014 Emina Ćerimović/Human Rights Watch
(Brussels) – Croatia’s government should end the confinement of children and adults in institutions, five disabled people’s and human rights organizations said today in a letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. Despite some initial progress, the process of moving people out of institutions and into community-based living has stalled, the groups said.

Based on government figures for 2017, more than 7,800 adults and children with disabilities live in state-run institutions. More than 2,000 others live in privately run but state-funded institutions. These include smaller institutions called family homes, which house up to 20 people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, or mental health conditions. It is unclear how many others live in long-term care in psychiatric hospitals without their consent.

“The Croatian government should follow through on its promises to respect the rights of everyone who has a disability to live independently and make their own choices,” said Emina Ćerimović, senior disability rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government helped make this a reality for hundreds of people and should build on this experience for thousands of others.”

According to official data, between 2011 and 2016, the government provided support for approximately 700 people to move out of state-run institutions and into organized housing in the community.

The groups sending the letter are Inclusion Europe, the European Network on Independent Living, the Centre for Peace Studies Croatia, Human Rights House Zagreb, and Human Rights Watch.

The Croatian government should make a clear plan to phase out institutions, the groups said. The government should also develop services in the community, so that children with disabilities can grow up in families and that people with disabilities can live independently, with adequate support.

“The Croatian government needs to move more quickly to meet its obligations under the international disability rights treaty, which it ratified a decade ago,” said Human Rights House Zagreb’s Ivan Novosel. “This includes removing all legal and societal barriers that prevent people with disabilities from taking an active and full part in society.” 

The government’s figures show that as of April 2018, more than 2,455 adults with disabilities were living in foster care. On May 21, the government published a draft Law on Foster Care that would give priority to placing adults with disabilities in the foster care program, including without their consent. Foster care cannot be considered independent living in community for adults as required by the disability rights treaty, the organizations said.

Both the United Nations Committee on the Rights of People With Disabilities and Croatia’s Ombudswoman for Persons with Disabilities have criticized placing adults in foster care.

“Under the international disability rights treaty, Croatia must respect the right of all people with disabilities to live independently in the community, regardless of their impairment, support needs, or age,” said Ines Bulic Cojocariu, deputy director at the European Network on Independent Living. “The government should develop and adequately fund community-based services. Instead, the government continues to place adults with disabilities in institutions and foster families against their will.”

People with psychosocial disabilities in psychiatric hospitals and those in foster care remain excluded from the government’s deinstitutionalization efforts.

In an April meeting with Human Rights Watch, the Social Policy Ministry promised to adopt a new plan to support community-based living for people with disabilities, including those in state-run institutions, private institutions, and family homes. In a subsequent letter to Human Rights Watch, however, the ministry said that people with disabilities who need long-term and intensive care will remain in institutions.

Many people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities end up in institutions or foster care because they are denied legal capacity or the right to make basic decisions for themselves. A guardian makes some or all decisions for them. About 18,000 people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities are under some form of guardianship in Croatia.

In June 2014, the Croatian Parliament adopted a new Family Act, which abolished full guardianship. It required courts to review all previous decisions on deprivation of legal capacity with the aim of restoring partial or full legal capacity to those previously stripped of it by January 2020. Since then, courts have reviewed only 1,179 cases, restoring full legal capacity to just 95 people and partial legal capacity to 273. Restoring partial legal capacity means a court can specify what decisions the person is allowed to make independently and those that a guardian will continue to make, such as for living arrangements and health care. 

“Guardianship and other forms of restricting the right to make decisions are inconsistent with Croatia’s human rights obligations,” said Jyrki Pinomaa, president of Inclusion Europe. “Croatia should be restoring legal capacity to people under guardianship and implementing supported decision-making systems that respect the autonomy, will, and preferences of each person.”

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities guarantees the right of everyone with a disability to live independently and to be included in the community, regardless of their disability, wither they have multiple disabilities, or whether they need a high level of support. The freedom for individuals to make decisions and control their lives is essential to living independently, the organizations said. In December 2017, the Council of the European Union called on EU governments to ensure that everyone has the right to live independently within their community and to play an active part in society.

“Croatia should mark the 10th anniversary since ratifying the disability rights treaty by reforming laws and policies to meet its obligation under the treaty, including to ensure the right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community and make their own decisions on where and how they want to live,” said Cvijeta Senta of the Centre for Peace Studies.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Unaccompanied teens queue outside the Paris evaluation facility (Dispositif d’evaluation des mineurs isolés étrangers, DEMIE) to seek formal recognition as unaccompanied migrant children, October 3, 2018. © Anna Chaplin/Human Rights Watch

Paris child protection authorities employ inadequate procedures that arbitrarily deny formal recognition as a child to unaccompanied migrant children, denying many the services they desperately need.

Human Rights Watch found, similar to the situation it reported in July 2018, that authorities are using summary age assessments to determine eligibility for services, in violation of international standards and French regulations. As a result, children are deprived of access to essential services they are entitled to, including housing, education, and health services. In the meantime, many must sleep on the streets.

“Migrant children who arrive in Paris alone are living in the streets because of unfair procedures,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France Director of Human Rights Watch. “Child welfare authorities in Paris should make sure that no child faces danger because of slipshod and arbitrary assessments of their age and their needs.”

Paris officials said that they already had taken steps to address the problems even as Human Rights Watch issued its report in July outlining the concerns. But interviews with children who sought recognition of their status in August and September and a review of documents indicate that little had changed.

French regulations require authorities to follow comprehensive, multidisciplinary age assessment procedures, ordinarily meaning interviews of several hours in duration.

In a typical case, a 16-year-old Afghan boy told Human Rights Watch that authorities concluded he was not a child after speaking with him for 30 minutes the day he arrived in Paris. Similarly, a humanitarian group tracked the cases of about 100 youths who sought formal recognition as children in August and September and found that 60 percent had interviews of only about 20 minutes.

Unaccompanied migrant children in France are entitled under French law to housing, education, and other services. However, authorities must formally recognize them as children for them to gain access. There are ssignificant differences in material benefits and legal status available to child migrants under the Family and Social Action Code (Code de l’action sociale et des familles) and the immigration law as compared with adult migrants, creating incentives for young adults to misrepresent their age. If authorities have serious doubts about an individual’s claim to be under 18, they can take appropriate steps to determine age, provided that they do so in line with appropriate standards that ensure respect for their rights and dignity.

The regulations also allow unaccompanied children to receive emergency shelter for five days, and in some cases more, before their interview. Aid workers stressed the importance of allowing unaccompanied children some time to recover from their journeys before undergoing age assessment interviews. Sophie Laurant, coordinator of Médecins du Monde’s Programme for Unaccompanied Minors, told Human Rights Watch that a period of recuperation after the child arrives in the city is imperative for a proper assessment.

But in many cases, authorities interview unaccompanied children immediately after they go to the the Paris evaluation facility (Dispositif d’evaluation des mineurs isolés étrangers, DEMIE), meaning that children must answer detailed questions without understanding the purpose of the interview. Some children told Human Rights Watch they had just arrived in Paris and had not slept, showered, or changed clothes before their interview. “I was really tired. I don’t even remember what they asked me and what I told them,” the 16-year-old said of his interview, which took place in mid-September.

Authorities rely on invalid grounds for concluding that a person is an adult. Youths are often denied recognition as children if they lack identity documents. Work in the home country or on the journey to Europe is also regularly cited as a basis for negative decisions, though many children around the world work. And child protection authorities frequently relied on subjective factors such as “bearing” or comportment.

Human Rights Watch found that Paris child welfare authorities have made some slight improvements in their procedures over the past three months. Just one of the children Human Rights Watch interviewed in August and September was turned away at the door, a frequent practice earlier in the year. Even so, humanitarian groups saw other cases of children rejected in that way at the beginning of September.

In another improvement over past practice, all but one of the children interviewed received a letter from the Directorate of Social Action, Children, and Health (Direction de l’action sociale, de l’enfance et de la santé, DASES) indicating the reasons for the refusal to formally recognize them as children. A written notification allows young migrants to appeal the decision before the juvenile judge.

Appeals take several months or longer, during which time young migrants cannot get child protection services or emergency accommodation for adult migrants. Some receive help from aid groups and networks of volunteers. But many live on the streets, where they are exposed to many risks, including exploitation and illegal or other hazardous work. “On the street, you see some kids who sell hashish, other drugs – they have nothing to eat,” said a 15-year-old boy from Guinea. “You’re forced to take risks.”

While they are appealing negative age assessments, unaccompanied children also have no access to school or apprenticeships, which they would otherwise receive.

Paris child protection authorities should ensure that all unaccompanied migrant children receive the comprehensive, multidisciplinary evaluation to which they are entitled under French regulations, Human Rights Watch said. Child protection authorities should also ensure that unaccompanied children receive emergency shelter and adequate information about the purpose of the evaluation beforehand, to allow them to recuperate from their journeys and prepare and effectively take part in the evaluation. Children should be provided with shelter while their cases are under appeal.

“Child protection authorities in Paris have begun the process to meet their obligations under French and international standards,” Jeannerod said. “They should urgently see through further reforms to ensure that age assessment procedures fulfil the purpose of French regulations and international standards.”

In a report published in July based on research conducted between February and June 2018, Human Rights Watch documented the arbitrary and flawed nature of age assessment procedures for unaccompanied migrant children seeking recognition of their status as children from child welfare services in Paris. Human Rights Watch undertook additional research in August and September to investigate authorities’ claims that they had addressed the serious shortcomings identified in the July report.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 19 migrant adolescents in Paris who identified themselves as children under age 18. The total included those who presented themselves between July 4 and September 20 at the Paris evaluation facility to have their age assessed. Human Rights Watch also interviewed humanitarian workers and lawyers working with young migrants and reviewed 21 denial letters issued by the Directorate of Social Action, Children, and Health (Direction de l’action sociale, de l’enfance et de la santé, DASES).

Summary, Flawed Interviews
Children who visited the evaluation office in August and September said that they were assessed in interviews lasting from 2 to 30 minutes, with the exception of one child who was interviewed for more than one hour.

Consistent accounts from two humanitarian organizations suggest that a large number of children going to the office receive a short interview of about 20 minutes, which almost always seems to end with an oral denial and instructions to return the following day for the written decision. A few children each week receive an appointment for a full interview.

Some youths continue to be summarily turned away at the door without being interviewed (a practice known in French as a “refus guichet”). A 16-year-old Guinean boy told Human Rights Watch on September 20 that the receptionist had summarily rejected him at the door that morning. “They told me they had already seen me . . . and not even a minute later I had to leave,” he said, adding he had not been there before. Two humanitarian associations described similar cases, albeit in smaller numbers than in the first half of 2018.

Child protection authorities are permitted to refuse access summarily to people who are clearly over 18. When Human Rights Watch met in May with an official from the French Red Cross, which carries out age assessments in Paris under an agreement with authorities, he said as an example, that a person who appeared to be in his 40s would be turned away without an interview. But none of the youths Human Rights Watch spoke to who said they had been refused interviews appeared to Human Rights Watch researchers to be clearly over 18.

French regulations say that interviews should be conducted in a manner “characterized by neutrality and compassion,” and international standards require a “safe” environment and “fair” treatment, in a way that is sensitive to the child’s age, gender, psychological maturity, and emotional state.

The research between February and June 2018 revealed that the authorities were not fully complying with these standards, and the accounts from youths interviewed in August and September suggest that these problems persist. In a typical account, a 16-year-old boy from Cote d’Ivoire said on August 29 that his interview two weeks earlier made him uncomfortable, impeding his ability to tell his story: “I felt embarrassed. He [the evaluator] didn’t make me feel comfortable. I can see they’re mean, not nice to me.”

The staff do not always conduct interviews in a language that unaccompanied children understand. Médecins Sans Frontières has seen several such cases. They cited the case of an Ethiopian boy assessed in English even though he was unable to communicate details of his background with Médecins Sans Frontières staff in that language.

Adequate Access to Temporary Shelter
French regulations require authorities to provide five days of emergency shelter while they investigate the child’s situation. Nevertheless, most of the youths interviewed were evaluated as soon as they arrived at the office, with no time for rest and recuperation even though many had just arrived in Paris after weeks or months in transit.

Instead, many unaccompanied migrant children receive a single night of emergency temporary shelter, and then only after their interview. Only two children interviewed said they received temporary shelter before their interviews, one for a week and a half and the other for two weeks.

The group that collected about 100 reports from youths who went to the DEMIE in August and September estimated on that basis that “[a]bout 60 percent are assessed immediately and given a hotel room for only one night before receiving their rejection letter the next day, and about 40 percent are given a shelter for a few nights before being assessed during a longer interview, currently on average for 10 nights.”

Time for rest and recovery before being evaluated is crucial for accurate age assessments. Sophie Laurant, Coordinator of the Unaccompanied Minors Program at Médecins du Monde, said: “Given their profile, story and [health] status when they arrive in France, a period of respite is imperative, and access to physical and psychological care is needed without delay. A youth can only be properly assessed if he is no longer in a state of suffering (physical trauma, psychological wandering, stupefaction, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.), if he understands what is happening, why the evaluator asks this or that question.”

Médecins Sans Frontières, which received 129 children in its Center for Unaccompanied Migrant Children between July 1 and August 31, said that these children are physically and psychologically exhausted when they arrive, after very difficult journeys, whatever their route.

Arbitrary Grounds for Denial
In an improvement over the practice in early 2018, youths now regularly receive written denial letters. Nevertheless, denial letters issued in July, August, and September that Human Rights Watch examined continue to cite grounds that appear both subjective and arbitrary.

The letters employ generic justifications, often in identical wording, with little or no reference to the child’s individual background or other details of the interview. The Directorate of Social Action, Children, and Health issued most of these denial letters the day after children were interviewed.

The absence of identity documents, or the fact that documents presented “cannot be definitively associated” with the child being assessed, continue to be cited as grounds for rejection, even though many people leave their homes without their identity documents or lose them along the way, or birth certificates do not include a photo. “The person told me directly, ‘There is nothing we can do for you,’ because I don't have a birth certificate,” said a child interviewed in August. “I was told to come back the next day to pick up the rejection paper.”

Working before or during the migration journey, or traveling alone, continues to be seen as a sign of maturity, and therefore of adulthood, though many children around the world travel alone or work, as Human Rights Watch has documented in many countries. Eighteen of the twenty-one letters reviewed mentioned traveling alone, working, or making the migration journey or financing the trip alone as signs that the person is not a child.

A letter to a Cameroonian boy who gave his age as 17 notified him that the refusal refuses to recognize him as a child was based on the ground that “the autonomy [he has] demonstrated during his migratory journey – by working to finance it – is not compatible with the age [he declares].”

As was true for the decisions reviewed for the July report, if a child gives a detailed account of their life and communicates well, that can be a cause of rejection because it is perceived as a sign of maturity. Conversely, a lack of precision or consistency is cited as a reason for rejection.

The letter rejecting a 15-year-old Senegalese boy said that “[his] story is told in a non-spontaneous way” and that “[his] migratory journey is insufficiently detailed and lacks precision.”

These demands seem excessive for adolescents who have just arrived from a long and sometimes traumatic migration journey, are often living on the street, and have to go through a stressful interview. This requirement for precision and consistency is also at odds with the brief duration of the many of the interviews, which do not allow for a detailed account.

Other frequent grounds for rejection are that the “academic knowledge [of the individual being evaluated] does not correspond to the life path described and is clearly out of step with that of a teenager of the [declared] age,” or that the youth displays significant “reasoning and elaboration skills” or “a mature mode of communication.” Brief and ad hoc assessments cannot capture the many variables that may explain why a person may appear more articulate, more confident, or generally seem to have more knowledge than other children of the same age with different life experiences.

Sixteen of the twenty-one rejection letters reviewed relied on the youth’s “overall posture” to deny recognition as a child. This subjective criterion is not based on any validated instrument for assessing age through behavior.

The National Red Cross Delegate for Children and Families told Human Rights Watch at the end of May that the Red Cross staff who do the Paris evaluations did not have any recognized evaluation tools to assess age on the basis of attitude, comportment, and behavior. Instead, examiners appear to rely on subjective judgments to reach arbitrary determinations as to who is a child and who is not. These decisions have immediate and long-term consequences for unaccompanied migrant children.

French regulations and international standards call for assessing age through a framework that considers psychological, developmental, and cultural factors, and for undertaking assessments with skill and sensitivity. The procedures used should afford the benefit of the doubt “such that if there is a possibility that the individual is a child, s/he should be treated as such.”

Appeal Delays
A child who receives a negative age assessment can appeal to the juvenile court, but appeals can take months. Ladji, a 14-year-old Ivorian boy, said that officials rejected his application in December 2017, but that he had not received the judge’s decision as of September.

Delays increase during the summer, lawyers said, because the summer holidays slow the activity of the juvenile court so that judges summon fewer children to hear their appeals.

Children on the Street
A consequence of flawed age assessment procedures is that many children are left to fend for themselves. Unless private citizens take them in, they are left on the street.

Sébastien D., a 17-year old Cameroonian boy, had been sleeping on the streets since officials rejected his application on August 1. At the time Human Rights Watch spoke with him, he had been sleeping in a park in Paris for 17 days. “Since I was rejected by the DEMIE, I have been sleeping on the street, at Place de la République: […] To sleep, you look for a corner, you lay down a piece of cardboard. If you find an older gentleman, he might give you a blanket. Because at night it can be very cold.”

Mamadou, a 16-year-old Malian boy, said: “The DEMIE gave me a paper explaining how to call the 115 [the emergency number that adults in France can call to find temporary accommodation] to get a place to sleep. I called the 115, but they told me they couldn't take me because I was a minor. I’m not going to say I’m over 18 just so I don’t sleep on the street!”

Alioune, a 16-year-old Senegalese boy, had been sleeping in a park for three weeks when Human Rights Watch interviewed him in August. The Paris officials had rejected his application two months earlier, and he was still waiting for the result of his appeal.

The solidarity and generosity of citizens who agree to provide shelter for unaccompanied children is commendable but cannot be a sustainable solution. Private assistance is too uncertain and variable, depending both on the number of citizens offering to host children and also on the number of unaccompanied children arriving on French territory. Humanitarian associations told Human Rights Watch that a significant number of children were left on the streets as hosts went on vacation during the summer.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am